Hertfordshire Ranks 3rd on List for Best Places to Live in the UK!

The county of Hertfordshire has retained its top spot of 3rd place on the Quality of Life Index list 2015. Out of a whopping 138 UK cities and areas Hertfordshire has remained at 3rd since the last survey was done in 2013. It can take credit for a few 1st places on the list too, such as the No1 spot for both the highest disposable income and the highest employment stats in the whole of the UK at 78%!

Only Hertfordshire and Berkshire from the South East of England made it into the top 10 on the list, beating London and all the beautiful Home Counties that surround it. Household income is considerably higher than the rest of the UK and our life expectancy is above average too, it must be all the clean country air!

Properties in Hertfordshire are higher than average for the UK but this is probably connected to the higher income of its population, in comparison to London prices they are far more reasonable. The average cost of a terraced house in Hertfordshire will set you back £344,051, compared to a terraced house in London which is on average £604,529, so nearly double! It’s no surprise then that Hertfordshire is one of the most sought after places for people wanting to move from London to but to stay within commuting distance for work.

Businesses in Hertfordshire are thriving and the services they receive are second to none with 99% mobile phone coverage and very high broadband speeds, setting up and running a successful business here is very much a reality so creating fantastic job prospects for local people.

If you are thinking of moving to Hertfordshire, there are many beautiful towns and villages to explore before you decide on one to settle down in, if you would like any advice please pop in to see us in Hertford, our favourite obviously!

Some things get better with age!

Hertford is a town steeped in history from its Castle with beautiful gate house and sweeping tree lined river to the medieval layout of this market town with it’s many original timber framed buildings. One of which is home to our new office for our independent and family run estate agents, Abel of Hertford. This particular 15th Century building is very unusual because of the size of the timber frame which runs from the corner of Fore Street and Market Place which is our building, and quite a way down Fore Street, encompassing a number of shops and residential properties. It’s a bit of a mystery to local historians because a market town this size doesn’t usually have such a grand structure from this period, these would have been the reserve of larger towns and cities. There is speculation that this building was constructed to house members of parliament during the period that London was besieged by the Plague, the Castle was also used to house parliament so maybe the situation required a more permanent and larger structure to be built.

It was built using the ‘Post and Beam’ technique which made it possible to create large interior spaces as the huge pieces of wood were strong enough to hold up to a lot more weight so upper floors could be created, the beams are still as solid today as they were when built roughly 500 years ago! The up exterior is covered in ornamental stucco patterns currently painted with a white wash

The earliest references to the town are in 731AD which refer to the town as ‘Herutford’, ‘Herut’ being the old English spelling of Hart meaning a fully mature stag, thus meaning the ford where Harts are found. Hertford is located at the joining of four rivers, the Rib, Beane, Mimram which all join the River Lea on its way into London.

Hertford today is a growing, vibrant and forward thinking town with great local shops, fantastic schools, great community events and beautiful country walks to name but a few. We are so proud to be located at the heart of this market town surrounded by all this history!

Top 10 Tips for New Landlords

We get asked a lot of questions about letting a property so thought it might be a good idea to compile a ‘top tips’ list to share which will hopefully demystify some of the seemingly daunting processes of letting a property for the first time. Whether it’s your own home or a buy-to-let investment, the tips below should give you some insight into becoming a landlord and what you can expect. If you get it right then it can be such a rewarding business!

1. It’s very important to get some sound financial advise so you know if it’s a viable option to let your property out. When drawing up your financial plan make sure you take into account all the costs of renting a property out, this will include any repairs or updates you need to make to the property, don’t forget to include estimated periods when the property might be empty and therefore not bringing in any income, these are called ‘void periods’ and are often overlooked by new landlords. Contact several local agents to get a realistic estimate of the likely rental income to give you a better view of whether the rent will be enough to at least cover all your costs.

2. If you work full time, then managing a property can be very stressful and time consuming. If you decide that you just won’t have the time you have the option to use a letting agent, meet with several that are local to the property. They usually offer packages ranging from ‘Let Only’ where they will find you tenants, check references and draw up the tenancy agreement. All the way to the other end of the spectrum with ‘Premier’ packages which encompass everything including all legal requirements, safety checks and maintenance so the landlord doesn’t need to lift a finger. All these costs are tax deductible but the rental income will obviously determine what package is financially viable for you. If you do choose to use an agent, make sure they are registered with one of the professional regulatory bodies. These include NALS (National Approved Letting Scheme) and ARLA.

3. Find out what your obligations are as a landlord and make sure you can fulfil them, if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007 you are legally required to put your tenants deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP)
Make sure your home is safe to be rented out. Plenty of things that you have been prepared to live with for a long time will not be suitable if someone else is coming to live in your property.
You will need to obtain a gas safety certificate from an engineer registered with gas safety body CORGI and instal carbon monoxide detectors. You will also need to get the wiring checked by a qualified electrician. “It would be good practice to get a certificate for this too,” Salusbury, at the NLA, says. Some larger properties may also need fire detectors before being rented out.
It is also your responsibility to obtain an EPC certificate for the property. You must order an EPC for potential buyers and tenants before you market your property to sell or rent, this will give potential tenants information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs.

4. We would recommend that landlords meet any potential tenants face to face, it’s not just a nice thing to know who is moving into your property, but the track record is that people who have met in person generally have a better chance of resolving any potential issues that may arise between them, this in turn makes life easier for everyone involved.

5. Attracting good quality tenants, and then keeping them for as long as possible is the aim of the game! Think about your home’s kerb appeal. Make sure that the property feels like home – all appliances are in working order (that includes all light bulbs!) Securing that all-important first impression, for example via your letting agent’s website, property brochure or when conducting property viewings, and then ensuring general upkeep is therefore crucial to make sure that happens.

6. Have a contingency fund; reapirs and general wear and tear are issues that are always going to arise when you are letting a property so expect to replace carpets, appliances and other fixtures and fittings in the future. It helps to have this in mind so would be an idea to keep some money aside specifically to finance these so you wont have a nasty shock when something out of the blue occurs.

7. Rental income will be treated as income and taxed in line with your basic or higher-rate tax bands, so try and work out the tax implications of renting out your property before putting it on the market. There are however certain costs that can be offset against tax. Including mortgage interest payments, letting agency and management costs and any costs for repairs and the general upkeep of your property so make sure you keep a record of all outgoings i.e invoices from contractors and mortgage statements etc. You are required to keep these records for 5 years.

8. Be flexible and try not to put too many unnecessary restrictions i.e allowing children and pets unless you have a real reason to do so. Try to present your property as a tempting proposition, especially if its a large family home, potential tenants with children will be more concerned will safety and shabbyness than say a group of younger sharers would be.

9. If you are renting your property out, you are still responsible for buildings insurance on the property, as well as your own contents, fixtures and fittings. The insurer will need to know that the property is being rented out, if they don’t know and something goes wrong your policy could be considerered invalid. A specific landlord’s insurance policy will cover you for things like loss of rent and landlord liability.

10. Make sure you inform your mortgage company, do not be tempted to leave your lender in the dark about your tenants. If you don’t inform them, you will be in breach of your mortgage conditions, and your insurance would be invalid should anything happen, says Malcolm Harrison of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). In some cases, your mortgage company will not force you to change your mortgage, but they all have different criteria.
You may find that your lender forces you to change to a buy-to-let mortgage with a higher interest rate, it’s best to know where you stand so you can build this into your costs before you go ahead and then find its not financialy viable.

 

We hope this has shed some light on just some of the important issues that you need to consider when looking to let a property, if you do decide to take the leap, we wish you all the best in your new and exciting future as a landlord!

Look up!

If you happen to look up when you are walking through your town or village you may stumble upon a wealth of historical architecture and original period details that are often missed because of the more modern shop fronts. Taking the time to slow down and soak up the different styles and techniques that were fashionable at the time they were built, may fill you with a sense of wonder. Without modern machinery, the majority of what you will see would have been created by the hands of skilled tradesmen and master craftsmen and the quality speaks for itself, they look as beautiful today as they did back then! In our town of Hertford we are lucky to have inherited many notable buildings from grand Victorian properties to the more humble 17th century timber bulk dwellings that line our Medieval lanes. Hertfordshire as a county has a rich tapestry of towns and villages so its nice to stop and appreciate the often unnoticed details that give each town its essence and character.

Hertford Christmas Gala

Living and working in Hertford is such a pleasure at anytime of the year but at this time of the year it gets even better. Every year Hertford Town Council put on the Christmas Gala to mark the start of the Christmas celebrations. Every year it gets bigger and better with new additions and fresh ideas being tried out, the Ghost Walks were a hit this year as everyone loves a bit of that Dickensian ‘Christmas Carol’ feeling around Yuletide, it makes one appreciate being tucked up safe and cozy at home with all the Christmas lights glinting whilst enjoying a warm cup of cocoa!

Market Place where Abel is based has its own Christmas Market with lots of lovely stalls selling hot food, mulled wine, homemade chutneys and many other Christmas goodies. Abel joined in by running our own ‘cheese on toast’ stall and lucky dip. All the proceeds going to the wonderful charity ‘Teens Unite’ that support very brave teenagers battling cancer.

The council also runs a ‘Winning Windows’ competition, the theme this year being ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’. A lot of the local shops took part so there are some really wonderful windows for all the kids to enjoy! Abel is over the moon that we won 1st Prize and a great big trophy presented by The Mayor of Hertford, Linda Radford. I was an honor to go on stage with the kids to collect it on behalf of the whole team; it’s really made our first Christmas of trading a very special one.

Our snow machine went down very well with all the locals and visitors, it really created a magical feeling especially as the snow floated down in front of all the sparkling lights on the little fair ground rides, hearing the whoops from the little children as the snow settled on their coats and hats.

Visiting the reindeer in Parliament square whilst listening to the uplifting sounds of carol singers, is becoming a yearly tradition in Hertford, as is the kids dressing up in costumes to have their photo taken in the Stable next to the Manger! On the main stage during the evening we had brass bands, singers, fire breathers and many other exciting and entertaining acts. The whole town pulls together to create a truly heart warming event which all builds towards the turning on of the lights in Salisbury Square at 6.30pm. A beautiful tall pine tree, our companion for just a few short weeks, is covered in fairy lights, everyone in the town square counts down from 10, great cheers erupt when the lights go on, we all know its not long until Christmas day!

And last but not least, the visit to the Big Man himself…Father Christmas. We visited him in his Grotto at Hertford Museum, all the Children’s faces were lit up as they came out whilst we waited patiently in the queue. We wont give too much away as we would spoil the surprise for next year if you choose to come to Hertford’s Wonderful Christmas Gala! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!