How to Banish Back-to-School Nerves

In this two-minute read, we look at how parents in Hertford can help their children adjust to being back in the classroom.

After many long and draining weeks of learning from home, children across the UK are finally returning to school.

While weary parents may be glad to see the back of homeschooling, some children may find the transition from front room to classroom daunting.

After spending so much time at home, dealing with the hurly-burly of school life might prove challenging for young people.

Here are some back-to-school tips from the NSPCC and mental health charity Place2Be.

Sleep tight

  • If your routine slipped during lockdown (and let’s face it, almost everybody’s did), readjust your child’s bedtime so that they’re not tired when you get them up for school.
  • If your child has a tablet or phone, make sure that they’re not using it close to bedtime as this will interfere with their sleep.
  • Exercise and fresh air aid a good night’s sleep, so if your child is experiencing broken sleep or is feeling anxious, get outside in the great outdoors.

Talk and listen

  • Talk to your child about how and why some things at school – such as lunchtime, playtime and PE – might be subject to different rules. Children are remarkably adaptable, but it’s worthwhile being upfront about the unusual situation in which we find ourselves.
  • If your child struggles to express themselves, encourage them to draw, paint or write about what’s on their minds. Putting our thoughts down on paper can have a soothing effect and help put things into perspective.
  • If returning to the classroom is making your child anxious, arrange to meet one of their friends on the way to school so that the two can chat before they get to the gates. Most likely, they’ll be so busy catching up with their mate that they’ll forget their nerves.

Advice and support

  • If your child seems stressed, show them Childline’s Calm Zone and explore some of the relaxation tips, breathing exercises and games on offer.
  • If catching up on lost lesson time is proving difficult for your child and you’re considering hiring additional support, read the NSPCC’s safety tips for hiring a tutor before you do anything.
  • Talk to a teacher or school counsellor if you feel concerned. Some parents feel embarrassed seeking mental health support for their child, but it’s okay to ask for help.

Charities that can help

The NSPCC

Place2Be

Childline

From the team at Abel, stay safe and take care.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

What the Spring Budget Means for Home Movers in Hertford

A two-minute read.

This afternoon the Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined his plans to get England back on track as we come out of the pandemic.

Among furlough extensions, extra support for the self-employed and business loan schemes was the welcome news that the stamp duty holiday is being extended.

When it was introduced, the original deadline was March 31 2021.

Here’s what the Chancellor announced this lunchtime.

Until 30 June 2021, no stamp duty will be charged on a residential property bought for up to £500,000.

Until 30 September 2021, no stamp duty will be charged on a residential property bought for up to £250,000.

From 1 October 2021, the stamp duty rate returns to pre-Covid-19 thresholds.

What it Means to Movers

For people with sales currently in our pipeline, it means they will not miss out on the savings the holiday is providing. This is potentially thousands of pounds and means people’s moving plans will not be disturbed.

Mortgage Market Opened Up

There was also good news for people planning to buy a home but struggling to save what is often a sizeable deposit.

Sunak announced a Mortgage Guarantee scheme that means homebuyers will be able to access 95% mortgages, backed by the Government, from High Street banks and lenders.

Lenders are being offered incentives to provide mortgages to first-time buyers and existing homeowners, with just 5% deposits to buy homes worth up to £600,000.

The Chancellor said: “This will give people the chance to go from Generation Rent to Generation Buy.”

If the Spring Budget has made you want to proceed with your moving plans, we’d love to help you.

To find out more about what the stamp duty holiday extension and Government-backed mortgage guarantee scheme means to you, call us on 01992 532 222.

Thanks for reading.

Abel 2021

ENDS

How Technology Can Make Life Easier for Landlords in Hertford

In this two-minute read, we look at how technology can help landlords be more successful, do their bit for the planet, protect their tenants, and save money.

From smart TVs to one-click shopping, technology makes life a whole lot easier than it was 20 years ago for the average person.

It also has many benefits for private landlords and their tenants.

Here are our top tech tips.

Energy efficiency

Being green has been all the rage for years, and prospective tenants will be impressed if their new home has a good EPC rating. You could possibly achieve a higher rent if your property is fitted with innovative energy-saving technology, and you’ll be able to attract eco-conscious, high-quality tenants.

Smart meters are already commonplace, while smart thermostats and energy-efficient lightbulbs are some of the other ways you could potentially save money.

Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Landlords are legally required to ensure properties are fitted with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. But now, with intelligent detectors, landlords can be sent notifications to their phone if there’s a problem. These notifications can also be set up by your tenants on their phones, giving them extra peace of mind.

Home security

One of the biggest worries for any homeowner, let alone a landlord, is a property’s security. The good news is there are devices out there to protect both your property and your tenants’ belongings, meaning you can both sleep well at night.

Motion sensors can alert you to unexpected intruders. Simultaneously, remote security cameras can be linked to Wi-Fi, meaning it’s easy to keep tabs on the outside of your property from your phone – especially useful during any dreaded void period.

Of course, when it comes to security your tenants’ privacy must always be respected.

You might even want to think about installing smart locks. These can reduce the risk of lost keys and the chances of you, or a costly locksmith, being called out at any time of the day (or night).

The Best Thing A Landlord Can Do

While technology can give landlords a big helping hand, using an experienced, qualified, and conscientious letting agent remains the best move you can make for a successful tenancy.

Here at Abel, we’re experts in all things letting.

And if you’re a bit daunted by any of the above, don’t worry. We’ll guide you through everything you need to know.

Copyright Abel 2021

The Five Most Common Renovation Blunders

In this two-minute read, we look at the home renovations that don’t add value – and can make it harder to sell your property.

If there’s a chance you could sell your Hertford home in the next few years, think before you rush into making any major home renovations.

While you might read about celebrities investing in fancy wine cellars (David Beckham’s building one for his 7,000 bottles of plonk) or bespoke nature ponds (Ed Sheeran’s has a jetty), the reality is that pet projects rarely pay off.

What one enthusiastic home renovator sees as original and bold, could seem dated in a few years’ time.

Of course, your home should reflect who you are – there’s more to life than nondescript neutral palettes.

But there are ways to personalise your property without harming your chances of securing a good selling price further down the track (unless you’re David Beckham or Ed Sheeran and money is no object).

Steer clear of spending big on features or structural changes that the next owner might find difficult or expensive to remove.

Instead, put your stamp on your home through colourful photo galleries, eye-catching artworks and bright feature walls (that you can paint over further down the track).

Common renovation mistakes

1 Adding a tiny bathroom

An additional bathroom can add real value to a property – but size really does matter. If you need a shoehorn to wiggle your way in and out, it’s more trouble (and money) than it’s worth.

2 Hot tubs

Hot tubs are the Marmite of the garden world – people either love them or hate them. For some, a hot tub is the height of luxury; for others, it screams ‘wife swap’. It’s a question of personal taste but be aware that would-be buyers might have concerns about costs, upkeep, and nosy neighbours. 

3 Other outdoor statement pieces

Expensive climbing frames, ornate water features and fountains might be a turn-off as they can be costly and cumbersome to remove.

4 Bold coloured kitchen cabinets

A fresh and modern kitchen can be a worthwhile investment but be wary of getting carried away with current trends. Install neutral-coloured cabinets as they won’t date as quickly. If you want to make a statement, do so by hanging eye-catching artworks or a bespoke splashback that you can remove at a later date.

5 Single bedrooms

If you’re tempted to convert a generous bedroom into two smaller rooms, think carefully. Parents of young children may believe that creating two smaller rooms that can accommodate single beds is the perfect antidote to sibling arguments. But potential buyers may find itty-bitty spaces that don’t serve a clear purpose (and are too small for at least a double bed and some storage) off-putting.

If you’d like more advice about selling your Hertford home, or to tell us your views on hot tubs, get in touch with us here atAbel.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

Seven Ways to Make a Tenant Feel at Home

In this three-minute read, we look at a new report that outlines how Hertford landlords can build a long and prosperous partnership with their tenant.

What’s the secret to a successful tenant/landlord relationship? It’s a question that has vexed property gurus through the ages, but now the University of Stirling thinks it has the answer.

A new report from the university, Making a Home in the Private Rented Sector, says the key to a long and happy property partnership is to make a tenant feel at home.

After all, if a tenant feels safe and settled, they’ll be happier and healthier, and more likely to take good care of the property and stay put long term.

And isn’t that the Holy Grail for any landlord? Who doesn’t want a reliable tenant who keeps the place tidy, pays their rent on time, and remains in situ for years?

The report identifies seven things landlords can do to make a tenant feel at home.

  1. Keep your property in good condition 

If you don’t take care of your property, why should anybody else? Set the tone at the start of a tenancy by ensuring that the property is in good nick. Invest in energy efficient measures such as draught-proofing and insulation – your tenants will appreciate it during winter.

  • Fix repairs promptly and to a high standard

Respond quickly when a tenant reports an issue. Dithering will only make your tenant less likely to raise issues in the future (which means a minor problem could snowball into a major repair job).

  • Don’t jump to conclusions about prospective tenants

You may have a fixed idea in your head of what makes the “perfect tenant”, but avoid making assumptions based on age, income, or other characteristics.

  • Avoid blanket bans on children and pets

Landlords who veto children, cats, dogs, ferrets, or hamsters could be missing a trick. When a family or pet owner settles in a property, they tend to stay longer because they don’t want the hassle of relocating – meaning a flexible landlord can enjoy a stable long-term income.

  • Negotiate about home decorating

We’re not suggesting that you give a tenant free rein to do a full Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen makeover, but think through any redecoration request carefully before responding. If a tenant can make your property feel like their home, they’ll stay in it for a longer period. And they may do a great job and add value to your property. 

  • Be respectful and supportive

Keep the lines of communication open by being respectful and helpful. You don’t have to become BFFs (in fact, we’d rather you keep it strictly professional), but be sensitive to your tenant’s feelings, especially when it comes to things like inspections. 

  • Offer longer tenancies with stable rents where possible

If things are going well, consider offering a longer tenancy. That way, you’ll both know where you stand in the long run.

If you have any questions about building a good tenant/landlord relationship, get in touch with us here at Abel. 

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

Three Stories to Get You in the Mood for Valentine’s Day

In this two-minute read, we share three stories that shine a light on affairs of the heart in the lead up to Valentine’s Day on Sunday.

Lockdown celebrations

One thing star-crossed lovers in Hertford don’t have to worry about this Valentine’s Day is bagging a reservation at a candle-lit restaurant. 

In “normal times”, even the most mediocre eatery is booked solid on 14 February, but – alas – thanks to lockdown that won’t be the case this year. 

So how can couples celebrate the Feast of St Valentine in style? Diana Wiley, a “marriage therapist and board-certified sex therapist” urges those in relationships to be creative. 

She told NBC that couples should focus on creating their own “bubble of love”. Ways to do this include dressing smartly (no onesies or tracksuit bottoms), buying your beloved a thoughtful gift (lingerie or some luxury bath items perhaps) and don’t obsess over the fact that you can’t go out.

Make 2021 the year you create a new Valentine’s tradition that doesn’t involve overpriced set menus.

The survey says…

Frugal types will be delighted to learn that you don’t have to spend big on your partner this Sunday.

That’s according to relationship coach Louanne Ward, who surveyed couples about their Valentine’s Day likes and dislikes.

Ward, an Australian who runs a matchmaking agency, says 63% of men and women surveyed think heartfelt gestures are more important than expensive gifts. 

So, if you were planning to present your other half with a pricey piece of jewellery or an expensive bottle of booze, think again; a home-cooked meal and a card might suffice.

And if you’re going to show your love with flowers, they don’t have to be red roses (which are usually eye-wateringly expensive on 14 February). The survey found that 80% of women would prefer to receive their favourite flower instead of red roses. The question is: do you know your beloved’s favourite bloom?

Is monogamy for the birds?

When it comes to everlasting love, birds are much more likely than mammals to stick with the same partner for life. Only about 5% of mammal species (excluding humans) are monogamous, compared to 90% of bird species (figures: World Wildlife Foundation). 

You won’t be surprised to learn that lovebirds mate for life. Other loyal species include bald eagles, barn owls, pigeons, vultures, scarlet macaws, flamingos, and mute swans.

(Side note: If a male mute swan dies, his female mate will find a new partner within weeks. However, if a female mute swan dies, the male waits until the following autumn or winter before buddying up with another swan.)

From all of us here at Abel, thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

7 Reasons to be Hopeful this Year

A 60-second speed read.

The past 12 months have been a Mount Everest like challenge for most of us.

But hope is on the horizon.

Here are seven reasons to stay optimistic in 2021.

  1. The vaccine rollout continues to gather pace and is vaccinating millions.
  2. Several animal species are expected to be saved from extinction.
  3. More governments across the globe are committing to cutting carbon emissions.
  4. Spring is around the corner – Better weather is coming.
  5. The fallout from the pandemic could be that we rebuild our societies in a fairer, more sustainable way.
  6. Sociologists predict that many people will emerge from the lockdown with a kinder, community-minded approach.
  7. After the Spanish Flu pandemic which ravaged the earth from 1918 – 1920 an economic and cultural boom swept Europe and North America. It was dubbed the ’roaring twenties’ and many experts predict we could be in for a similar period more than 100 years on from that decade.

Let’s face it 2021 can’t be anywhere near as bad as 2020.

What are you looking forward to most when our lives return to normal?

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Abel 2021

How to Protect Yourself from Bogus Landlords

In this three-minute read, we explain how renters can avoid getting ripped off by fake landlords.

Renters in Hertford should be on their guard against fraudsters using Covid-19 as a cover to swindle people out of their hard-earned cash.

Rental fraud is not a new scam – Action Fraud, the UK’s reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has been warning about it for years.

However, we’re concerned that the increase in property activity being carried out online due to the pandemic could leave renters more vulnerable to this kind of ruse.

Just last week, we heard of an attempt at online rental fraud and it’s clear the scammers are out there, doing their best to rip people off.

What is rental fraud?

Imagine this: you’re searching for a new place to live and a property advertised on social media catches your eye. It looks perfect, and the price is right. Stroke of luck!

So, you make contact to arrange a viewing. Great news, the property is available – but there’s an issue: you can’t view it in person. 

You may be told you can’t visit because:

– The ‘owner’ is out of the country due to work/personal issues/Covid-19. (They may even throw in a sly dig at Priti Patel’s quarantine rules to seem personable.)

– The ‘owner’ is unwell or isolating due to Covid-19. 

At this point, alarm bells should ring. What usually comes next is a request that you pay a deposit ASAP to secure the property. The ‘owner’ may suggest that you meet a ‘friend’ of theirs to exchange a cash deposit for the keys, or they may ask you to make an electronic transfer.

No matter how plausible the story seems, don’t hand over a penny.

If you do, we can pretty much guarantee you will never hear from the ‘owner’ again, never step inside the property you saw advertised (the pictures were probably ripped off from another rental advert), and never get your money back.

Fraud-busting tips

Never agree to rent a property through a website or social media. 

Never pay a deposit to rent a property you have not viewed in person. You must visit the property and ensure it is a genuine let. You need to be happy with the property and the terms and conditions of the letting. 

Never pay to view a property. Agencies and landlords never charge for viewings.

Never hand over cash – it’s untraceable and can be used immediately.

Never transfer funds via Western Union, Moneybookers or other electronic fund transfer services to someone claiming to be an agent or landlord.

Always establish that the property exists and that it is available for rent.

Always check the landlord/agent’s identity, and that he/she is authorised to rent the property.

Always do your research. Look online to see if the property is on any other rental platform. If it is with a letting agency, call them and clarify the details. If you want the property and it is with an agency, then go through them.

Always trust your instincts. If you’re unsure, walk away.

Always report scammers to the authorities.

From all of us here at Abel, please stay safe and be vigilant online.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

Three Good Reasons to Talk about Mental Health This Friday

In this three-minute read, we look at some of the positive initiatives inspired by Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental health used to be a taboo subject, but thankfully things are changing. 

This week was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and up and down the country, people found interesting ways to engage with young people about the issue.

The week’s theme was ‘expressing yourself’ and encouraged young people to find ways to share feelings, thoughts, or ideas through creativity. 

As one in six young people have a diagnosable mental health issue (figures: NHS), we must encourage open and honest discussion.

Here is a rundown for people in Hertford of some of the ways people shared that message this week.

Lovely Day for fundraising

Super smooth music legend Billy Ocean and Youth Voices (YV) – the world’s largest school choir – released a cover version of Bill Withers’ classic tune Lovely Day

Profits from sales of the single will go to Place2Be, a brilliant mental health charity that provides counselling services in 600 schools across the UK.

Expect to hear more from YV and Mr Ocean later in the year when they attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest simultaneous sing-along (multi-venues).

The current record was set by YV in 2005 when 293,978 singers at 1,616 venues sang Lean On Me.

YV hopes to smash this record on 15 June in a mass sing-along streamed live from the O2 Arena in London.

Meditation and movement

Schools across the UK marked Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in all sorts of ways. 

Pupils at Norbridge School in Worksop, Surrey, enjoyed guided meditation, while youngsters at Gwenfo CW Primary School in the Vale of Glamorgan took pleasure in walking and climbing in the great outdoors. 

Meanwhile, in Inverness, a new service launched called Mikeysline. It provides support to secondary school pupils who are struggling with difficult thoughts and feelings.

Olympic effort

Two sporty brothers, who recognise the vital role physical activity plays in warding off depression and anxiety, hosted their own Virtual Olympics this week.

Ottavio and Dario Tanzillo, competitive swimmers who work at a Northampton primary school, hosted a Virtual Olympics on their YouTube channel Tanzii TV this week.

In a series of light-hearted videos, the brothers, clad in superhero costumes and onesies, demonstrated boxing, hurdling, and fencing. 

They aimed to get kids – many of whom have become more sedentary during lockdown – up and moving.

Scientists have long recognised the link between a healthy body and a healthy mind, and say regular exercise increases self-esteem, reduces stress, and improves concentration.

And finally

A quick book recommendation. If you’d like to learn more about young people and mental health, get your hands on a copy of Take My Hand by Pat Sowa. Pat is a former headteacher and campaigner whose son Dom battled mental ill-health. You can also follow her on Twitter (@pat_sowa).

Visit www.place2be.org.uk to donate to Place2Be.

From all of us here at Abel thanks for reading. Stay safe and take care.

Copyright Abel 2021

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week in Hertford

In this 60 second speed read we show our support for a vitally important project which comes with Royal approval.

Children’s Mental Health Week (CMHW) is running from Monday 1 to Sunday 7 February.

The project’s patron, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, launched the event with a special video message.

The Duchess is a passionate supporter of children’s mental health and spoke about the importance of young people expressing their feelings safely and creatively.

It’s in keeping with the theme of this year’s week, which is Express Yourself.

The Duchess also spoke about the importance of parents and carers looking after their mental health and making time for themselves.

The CMHW website is filled with activities and resources for children and parents to do exactly that.

At Abel we recognise how challenging the lockdowns have been for children (and adults) and that’s why we’re putting our full support behind this initiative.

Lookout on Thursday for our 10 top tips to help children and young adults with their mental health.

For more info and to access all the free resources visit: www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk