Show Your Support for Those Businesses in Hertford Who Serve You Well

In this two-minute read, we look at how we can all do our bit to support and celebrate the local businesses serving Hertford well.

“The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

That was a quote from Muhammad Ali, and who are we to argue with sport’s greatest icon?

And although the boxing legend was talking about how we need to help each other every day, in this article, we’re looking at ways we can support the local businesses in HERTFORD who go above and beyond to serve us.

Like most of us, small businesses have had it tough over the past five months. And their fight is a long way from being over as they work to overcome the challenges Covid-19 has thrown down.

The social distancing measures have meant reduced capacity in their stores, more expenses going on PPE and safety equipment and less footfall.

As a local company ourselves, we use neighbouring businesses regularly, and we know the hard work, dedication, and commitment they put into serving our community.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, because we can all feel empowered by helping those who are helping us.

Celebrate Great Service

Shopping locally is the best way to show your support, but there are also several other things you can do to make a difference and help businesses not just survive, but thrive.

We all know of shops and business owners who bend over backwards to help their customers. These are the stores or services where nothing is ever too much, and we’d miss them if they weren’t there, doing what they do.

So let’s celebrate them using these four simple ideas.

1) Leave a five-star Google review. Testimonials help local shops and services attract new clients.

2) Share your experiences on a community forum. Let your neighbours know when you receive outstanding care.

3) Give a thank you card. Being a small business owner can be a lonely place at the best of times, so let them know they’re in your thoughts. It’ll give them a morale boost.

4) Use them or lose them. The most important thing we can do if we want to ensure the future of businesses we love is to spend money with them. By keeping the pound local, we make our community stronger and our future brighter.

We take pride in serving the people of Hertford, and we’re keen to play our part in shouting about the customer service champions within our community.

Tag or name the businesses and individuals who you feel deserve recognition for their hard work and care.

Thanks for reading.

How to Ease the Back to School Worries in Hertford

In this three-minute read, we look at seven things you can do to ease the back-to-school nerves children may be facing ahead of the new academic year.

The lockdown and ongoing fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic have been tough for everyone.

But it’s been especially hard for school-aged children.

They’ve gone months without seeing a lot of their friends, have had their routine turned upside down and now face new worries as the schools head back in September.

It’s going to be a challenging time for parents and kids, but these seven ideas from the University of Calgary in Canada can help ease any Covid-19 concerns that going back to school may bring.

1) Be Honest and Open
Don’t gloss over the facts and be truthful about what children can expect when they go to school, which will look and feel very different to life before lockdown. For younger kids, talk to them about changes in their classroom, how some activities will be postponed until things return to normal and make them aware that some familiar people may be wearing unfamiliar face masks. Ask older children if they have any concerns or want to talk about the return to school.

2) Make Them Feel in Control
It’s empowering for children to feel they can control certain things, especially during an uncertain time like this. Emphasise things they can do to fight the spread of the illness like listening to instructions, practising required social distancing and probably the best and easiest one to remember – getting into the habit of washing their hands.

3) Name It to Tame It
According to the University’s report, it helps children to recognise and even name their fears. Speaking about ‘the Worry Monster’ or for older children, labelling their worried feelings as anxiety can help them articulate what’s on their minds. According to child clinicians, naming the fears goes a long way to coping with them.

4) Listen Up
Put down your phone and listen intently if your child comes to you with concerns. By giving them attention, and showing you understand and are with them every step of the way helps reassure them that things will be ok. Children look towards adults for how to behave in certain situations so think about how you are reacting and be kind to yourselves because it’s ok for you to have nerves and worries too.

5) Role-Play
Play is a big part of the way we learn. So, why not try certain role-playing situations which your child has identified as worrying them. By playing out situations and finding solutions to problems in a safe environment, it will help them be better equipped for real-life scenarios.

6) Promote the Positives
Children have missed out on a lot of things because of Covid-19. But now they have some brighter times on the horizon. Ask them what they are most looking forward to? Who or what they have missed the most? And once they’ve returned to school, ask them what the best thing that happened during the day was?

7) Routines Reap Rewards
Of all the tips featured in this article, the authors of the University of Calgary report said that establishing a back-to-school routine is perhaps the most vital. You can build up a sense of calm and control in your children by having routine around meals and setting regular times for going to bed and waking up. Ideally, start this at least a week before the schools return.

At Abel, we see our role in the community we serve as being about more than helping people move and find homes. That’s why we often publish articles which have nothing to do with estate agency but everything to do with offering help and advice to the people, young and old, of Hertford.

Thanks for reading.

What landlords in Hertford need to know about the new eviction ban update.

A 2-minute read updating landlords about what the new extension on evicting tenants means for them and how we’re helping them avoid the worst-case scenario.

On Friday it was announced by the Government there is now an extension on the ban on landlords evicting tenants in England and Wales.

The new ruling means landA 2-minute read updating landlords about what the new extension on evicting tenants means for them and how we’re helping them avoid the worst-case scenario.
lords will have to legally wait until 20 September to begin proceedings using the eviction process.

Landlords will now have to give tenants six months’ notice of eviction, before the pandemic struck it was usually two months.

It was a last-minute measure by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as the original deadline for evictions to begin was today, Monday 24 August.

The original regulations were put into place back in March shortly after the Covid-19 lockdown began. It was a move to protect genuine cases of tenants struggling to pay their rent due to the outbreak.

Speaking to the BBC on Friday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, said: “I know this year has been challenging, and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19. That is why I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.

“I am also increasing protections for renters – six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.

“However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example, those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again. So, when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”

The final part of his statement was notable for landlords already under pressure. It means the prioritisation of the most serious cases, including those landlords who have not received rent for over a year.

At Abel we’ve always believed and advised our landlords that taking eviction action is a last resort.

Over the past five months, we’ve been focussing on proven techniques to reduce the risk of landlords and tenants having to go through the stress, cost and anxiety of the eviction process.

We’ve been:
• Keeping in regular contact with tenants to spot and help if possible, with any affordability issues.
• Helping our landlords understand any rent insurance policies they have in place.
• Talking with tenants about their legal responsibilities, which have remained the same during the lockdown and beyond.
• Working with landlords and tenants to come up with acceptable payment plans if necessary.

There are several other things we’ve been doing behind the scenes as we work hard to avoid the worst-case scenario. But we are fully prepared and ready if it does get to that point.

If you are a landlord and have questions around what the eviction ban extension means to you, call us, and one of our lettings’ experts will be on hand to answer them.

Thanks for reading.

The Common Mistakes Landlords in Hertford Should Avoid.

In this three-minute read, we look at the most common mistakes landlords make and share some simple, musical theatre-inspired tips, to help you protect your investment.

Hands up if you think this statement is true. Being a landlord is easy. You buy a property, find a tenant, and then sit back like Daddy Warbucks and count the cash as it rolls in!

If you raised your (jazz) hands, then we’ve got news for you. One of the most common mistakes new property investors make, is to assume that all landlords live on Easy Street.

The reality is that letting a property comes with a host of legal responsibilities. If you mess up and flout the law, you could face hefty penalties in the form of fines and/or time in prison.

So, if your sole focus is on Money, Money, Money, it might lead you to screech Mamma Mia because there’s more to being a successful landlord than meets the eye.

If, however, you recognise that making it up as you go along is not a successful lettings strategy, then the team here at Abel can help you realise the full potential of your property investment in Abel.

We’ve compiled a list of other common mistakes landlords make, which we’ve related to popular stage musicals to help you remember:

1) Many landlords make the mistake of setting the RENT too high. This deters potential tenants who know the market and, as a result, the property sits empty – until the landlord drops the rent to a more realistic price.

2) When it comes to repairs and maintenance, always use professional tradespeople. The last thing you want is a FIDDLER ON THE ROOF or an unqualified jack-of-all-trades messing about with your electrics. A bodge job will end up costing you more in the long run.

3) A laid back, ANYTHING GOES attitude to paperwork is a recipe for disaster. Always take the time to thoroughly check references and verify employment details before signing a contract with a new tenant. And once the tenant is in the property, follow up any conversations with an email or letter so that you have a clear paper trail should you find yourself in dispute later.

4) As a landlord, you don’t want to be such a shadowy figure that tenants wonder if you are a GHOST. It would be best if you built a professional rapport with tenants through regular contact and inspections. That way, if there is a problem, you can nip it in the bud before it becomes a significant issue.

5) Take maintenance seriously and keep your property in good condition – you don’t want it to be like a scene from LES MISERABLES. If your property looks and feels like a home, tenants are more likely to treat it as such. If it looks like shabby student digs, don’t be surprised if it gets trashed.

We hope the above tips give you a clearer idea of the potential pitfalls of being a landlord. But before we say So Long, Farewell, we want to stress that being a landlord can be financially rewarding, if you take a professional approach.

If you don’t think you have the time or skills to dedicate to managing a property, then we can help. We’ll handle the day-to-day graft and take the pressure off you.

At Abel, we’re lettings experts, and we can help you navigate the demands of being a landlord.

If that sounds like music to your ears, let’s talk.

Why Is the Hertford Property Market Red-Hot Right Now?

In this two-minute read, we look at the reasons behind the incredibly high levels of activity in the Hertford property market.

Earlier this month saw the UK record its highest temperature in 17 years.

And it’s not just the weather that’s been red-hot.

The property market in Hertford is going through a blisteringly busy period.

At Abel, we’re seeing a surge in the number of buyers seeking property locally.

Unprecedented was an often-used word to describe the lockdown experience we all went through. And it feels like an appropriate word to use, especially when describing what’s happening in terms of people wanting to move.

But why is this happening?

Well, we think it’s down to three things. To help people remember them, we’ve called them the 3D effect.

Desire – One of the legacies of lockdown was that many people realised they wanted more from their current home. All that time spent indoors has led to families and individuals rethinking about where, and how, they live. This has accelerated many people’s decision-making processes. Rather than wait a couple of years to move, many feel now is the right time. We’ve heard this from several buyers and sellers who are concluding that life’s too short to delay big decisions.

Demand – When the property market in Hertford went into lockdown it meant all moves were on hold. This caused a ‘blockage’ in the property selling/buying pipe. The relaxation of lockdown and reopening of the property market has seen a surge in demand. And where there is a demand for homes, it creates an increase in their value. So, many homeowners have realised now is a great time to make the most from their biggest tax-free asset. The saying ‘making hay while the sun shines’ springs to mind.

Duty – The Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday for properties under £500,000 in Hertford means more people now have a larger deposit, making mortgages more available and in many cases increasingly affordable.

On their own, the 3Ds would not have caused such a surge in activity.

But the three have come together in the same period to create the perfect climate for a red-hot property market.

If you are interested in having a chat about what this could mean to you, get in touch with us.

Warning – Look Out for the Phone Criminals Targeting Hertford

In this two-minute read, we look at the despicable criminals targeting people’s phones in Hertford and what we can do to stop them.

Do you know your fishing from your phishing?

While one is a gentle pastime popular among millions, the other according to Wikipedia, is this:
Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication, usually an email.

In other words, it’s a scam email.

But now we have another scam to contend with – smishing.
Smishing is on the rise. It’s when you receive a text or WhatsApp message on your phone that claims to be from a reputable source. But in reality, it is just another criminally-minded move to get you to part with sensitive data or to make a payment of some kind.

Current Smishing Scams Include:

Covid-19 Track and Trace messages that claim to be from the NHS but ask you for your bank details.
A variation of this smishing text is one that tells you to download a NHS Track and Trace app but takes you to a fraudulent lookalike site.
A classic smishing scam text tells you you’re in line for a tax rebate/business grant or some other kind of free money. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is.
A Vodafone spokesman, Ali Khamis, explained more. He said: “These scammers are very clever. Typically, a scam text will tell you you’re entitled to benefits, a tax rebate, or that you have to pay a fine for breaking the Government’s social isolation or distancing rules.”
Protect Yourself and Your Family and Friends

Here are six tips to protect you against the smishers:
1) Never open a link in a text message from someone you don’t know.
2) Never reply to text messages that have asked for or shown an interest in your finances.
3) Banks never text you asking for information. If you receive a text claiming to be from your bank call them on the number on your ATM card NOT a number in the message.
4) If you get a text from a number you don’t recognise – Google it. These numbers often flag up as being sent from scam artists.
5) Beware of any texts that say you need to take urgent action. This is a common technique of scammers.
6) If you get a text that seems dodgy, trust your instinct, because it usually turns out to be a smishing scam.

If you’ve been a victim of a smishing scam, then you need to report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040.

At Abel, we are urging all our clients and colleagues in Hertford to stay safe. Whether that’s online, on the phone, or in the real world.

And while we may not be able to track down smishers, we can play a big part in helping you find your next home.

The Best Ways Landlords in Hertford Can Insure Their Properties

In this three-minute read, we explain what landlord insurance is and how to protect your property investment.

If the mere mention of the word “insurance” makes you want to nod off, here’s a quick hack to focus your mind.

Ask yourself this question: what’s the worst that could happen to your property investment in Hertford?

Is it a flood, a fire, squatters, or a tenant tripping on a wobbly floorboard and suing you for every last penny? We bet you feel wide awake now.

Hopefully, none of these scenarios ever become a reality for you. But sometimes in life, the worst does happen – hence the need for insurance.

Landlords are not legally required to have insurance, but it’s a condition of most buy-to-let mortgages. Standard home and contents policies don’t cover tenancies, so specific landlord insurance is needed.

You can get policies which cover all sorts of eventualities, but the broader the cover, the bigger the premium. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of insurance.

Landlord Liability Insurance
This covers you if a tenant says your property caused them an injury. For example, if they trip on faulty wiring or fall down the stairs due to a broken bannister.

Buildings Insurance
Protects the actual building in the event of fire, flooding or vandalism.

Contents Insurance
Covers contents such as furniture, appliances and carpets in the event of theft, fire or flooding. It only covers your items; tenants need to insure their own belongings.

Accidental Damage
Covers things likes holes in the walls and spills on the carpet and is usually added to contents insurance.

Loss of Rent
If your property is uninhabitable due to fire or flood, a proportion of the rent is covered.

Legal Expenses Insurance
Covers you if you wind up in a nasty legal dispute over an eviction or unpaid rent.

Rent Protection
Covers you for a certain amount per calendar month, if a tenant doesn’t pay their rent.

General Cover
Most landlord insurance covers property liability, buildings insurance, contents and loss of rent. You can then add in (at a price) extra coverage, depending on your circumstances.

Always do your research and read the fine print before you commit to a policy. Also, get advice from us, to ensure you don’t leave yourself exposed.

A Word of Warning
Understandably, landlords worry about tenants damaging their property, but often the most significant risk arises when a property is empty.

Vacant properties are a target for vandals, squatters, arsonists and thieves. This is why many insurance policies become invalid if the property is empty for more than two months.

The best protection is to manage your property well, and this is where we, as good lettings agents, come into our own.

An insurance policy is your last resort in the event of a disaster.

An experienced, responsible letting agency like us is a proactive force, that can ward off disaster in the first place.

We can:
– help you find a reliable tenant, so there’s less risk of damage.
– keep on top of maintenance issues to prevent accidents.
– head off problems with rent arrears before a case reaches court.
– market your property professionally, so it’s not vacant for long.

It’s impossible to predict the future, but having a good letting agent working for you is a wise way to protect your property.

Here at Abel, we’re here to help manage and protect landlords’ property investments. If you have any questions whatsoever feel free to get in touch with us.

Six Ways Homeowner’s in Hertford Can Spot a Legal Eagle from a Tired Turkey

In this three-minute read, we share the things you should look for when instructing a solicitor to do the legal work when selling or buying a home.

When you are selling a home, you have two crucial decisions to make.

Firstly, choosing the right estate agent to sell your home is often the difference between getting a good deal or ending up with no deal.

Secondly, selecting the right conveyancing solicitor will no doubt make your life easier and less stressful. Picking a bad one often leads to headaches, hassle and having to chase them up continually.

During the past 5 years we have been serving the people of Hertford, we’ve learned a thing or six about what to look out for when it comes to choosing a legal eagle over a tired turkey or a grumpy goose.

Conveyancing is legalese for transferring the ownership of property, whether you are buying or selling.

What Is a Conveyancing Solicitor, and What Do They Do?

A conveyancer, or sometimes known more simply as a property solicitor, does the following for you:

They will handle the contracts.
Be on hand to give legal advice.
They are the people who carry out local council searches.
They will deal with the Land Registry.
And they are the people who will transfer the funds to pay for your property.
They have a significant and vital part to play when it comes to progressing your sale or purchase through to a successful end.

We realise the importance of their role, and that’s why we’ve come up with the six things to look out for when it comes to choosing a conveyancer or a property solicitor.

Six Top Tips

1) Look for recommendations. Ask your family and friends who they have used and would they recommend them.

2) Communication is key. Some solicitors are notoriously tricky to get hold of and can take days/weeks to respond to your questions. Before instructing any solicitor, it’s worth asking if they have a system in place where you can view/check on the progress of your sale or purchase? And what is the minimum timeframe within which they promise to get back to you?

3) Do they embrace technology? This is an excellent question to ask as some solicitors do not hold technology in high esteem, which can cause problems along the line.

4) Holidays. It’s not unreasonable for you to ask if a solicitor is going on holiday during the period when you are looking to buy or sell. The last thing you want is to be nearing the exchange of contracts to seal the transaction and then discover your solicitor is sunning themselves in Marbella. Even worse is that they won’t return for a fortnight and no one else has been left to work on your file.

5) Do your research. Make sure your chosen property specialist is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales/Law Society of Scotland and a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme. Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

6) Ask us. We’ve worked with hundreds of different conveyancing solicitors over the years. And we’ve experienced a real mix of the good, bad and the ugly (not that we are saying they’re unattractive cowboys or girls). Feel free to give us a call, and we’d be happy to provide you with recommendations and more insight into why choosing the right solicitor or conveyancer will make your life easier and raise your chances of property success.

There are plenty of great solicitors and conveyancers out there, you just need to do your homework to find them.

Thanks for reading and get in touch if you want answers to any of your property-related questions.

We’re here to help.

Hertford Landlords – Seven Simple Steps to Rental Success

In this two-minute read, we look at seven fundamental steps landlords in Hertford need to take to put themselves and their rental properties on the path to success.

Being a landlord can be challenging, complicated and confusing. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

By following these quick tips below, you’ll make your life easier and your properties more profitable.

1) Get Three (Free) Valuations. So, you have a property to rent? We suggest calling in three different letting agencies to compare prices, people, and approach. Be careful not to be sucked in by cheap fees as it’s often reflected in the service you get.

2) Picking a Letting Agent. Look for professionalism, integrity, value for money and a proven track record of serving local landlords in Hertford.

3) Marketing Magic. How, where, and when your property is marketed adds significantly to its chances of success. At Abel, we use several different platforms, tactics, and techniques to attract the largest possible audience for your property.

4) The 3 Ps. If you want to attract quality tenants at the best price, your property must be clean, well maintained and nicely presented. Remember the 3Ps as they are worth repeating – presentation, presentation, presentation.

5) Dealing with offers. Once quality tenants have been found, and the rental price agreed, we will carry out all the necessary work. This includes gathering references, creating tenancy agreements, collecting the initial deposit and rent, and arranging for a thorough check-in and inventory to take place.

6) Moving in and on. Once all the above has been carried out and is in order, you/we can release the keys to your new tenant. By establishing excellent communication during the moving in process we lay the foundations for good future relations.

7) Hassle-Free Property Management. We offer different tiers of service, from let only where we will find you a quality tenant and carry out all the preparatory work, right through to full property management.

When you decide to have your property fully managed, it means we take responsibility for most things that need doing and sorting out.

This includes collecting rents, arranging safety checks, property inspections and making sure maintenance and repairs are carried out by skilled local professionals. We will keep you the right side of the mountain of rental regulations and laws affecting rented property in Hertford.

Thanks for reading, and if you are a landlord looking to have their life made easier and rental property more profitable, please get in touch with us today.

Hertford Homeowners – Put Extra Pounds in Your Pocket by Improving Your Garden

In this three-minute read, we look at ways to smarten up your garden to boost its appeal when thinking of selling your home.

One of the most significant property trends to emerge from lockdown is the growing importance of outdoor space to buyers.

Industry insiders report that post-lockdown, an increasing number of people are looking for homes with a garden – or at least access to communal spaces.

This anecdotal evidence is backed up by Rightmove, which says searches for homes with gardens increased by 42% in May.

With buyers’ priorities shifting, we advise sellers in Hertford to invest a little time and effort to get gardens, roof terraces and balconies looking their best.

You don’t need to be Monty Don or Carol Klein, but you do need to get the basics right. A little bit of TLC will push up the asking price and speed up the sale.

Here are some tips:

– If your garden looks more like a junkyard than a backyard, you are missing a trick. Cut the grass, blitz the weeds and trim back overgrown bushes and hedges (this will make the space look bigger and brighter).

– Repair any broken or damaged fences. This is a must, especially if you are marketing a family home. Parents will want to know that their little ones can’t wander off. Pet owners will want to ensure that their beloved pooch stays put.

– If you have swings or a trampoline in good condition, it’s okay to leave them in situ (provided they don’t crowd the space). But anything that is faded or broken must go. Footballs, sandpits and scooters need to be stored away too.

– A lick of paint goes a long way. Add a splash of colour to sheds, decking and fences.

– Ditch the clutter. Don’t take it personally but people won’t be impressed by your collection of power tools or your assortment of garden gnomes. And don’t even get us started on caravans. These need to go into storage when selling.

– Once you’ve cleared the space, consider adding a few blooms or hanging baskets. When it comes to identifying where to place them, put yourself in the shoes of a viewer. Buyers will get their first glimpse of the garden when they are inside, looking out through a window. Identify these key focal points and place your plants there for maximum impact.

– Dress to impress. If you have a separate office or studio space, make sure it is presented as such. Often people cram offices with bikes, tools and boxes. You want potential buyers (who may work from home) to be able to walk around inside and envision themselves working in there. If your office has electricity and broadband, shout about it.

– Don’t forget the front garden. Even if the front of your property only has a small amount of space, invest in a few pot plants to make it look welcoming. First impressions are hugely important.

– And a final word on bins and laundry. It’s a pet peeve of ours when marketing photos feature bins (everyone has them, we don’t need to see them) and laundry drying on the line. A good agent knows the deal is in the detail and would ensure they are NOT featured in any photos.

If you’d like more advice on how best to present your home, contact us here at Abel. We’d love to help you make your next move.