New Year, New Hope …….. New Home?

A 90-second speed read to share some resolution ideas to bring some hope in 2021.

99.9 per cent of us cannot wait to see the back of 2020.

And what better time to draw a line under this ‘unprecedented’ year than the opportunity to welcome in a new year. And one which brings new hope.

Below are 10 of the most common resolutions people have made over the past five years, according to polling website You.Gov.

  1. Exercise more.
  2. Eat more healthily.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Budget finances better.
  5. Learn something new.
  6. Spend more time with friends and family. (Fingers crossed).
  7. Get more sleep.
  8. Reduce stress.
  9. Travel more (here’s hoping).
  10. Focus on spiritual growth.

And here are five of the most common resolutions we hear home seekers in Hertford make.

  1. A home with more room.
  2. A home nearer loved ones and/or good schools.
  3. A home with a room or space enabling working from home. (A new one for 2021).
  4. A home with a bigger garden or easy access to open space.
  5. A home with friendly neighbours.

At the heart of people’s resolutions is always a sense of hope.

And hope is something we’ll all be holding onto as we enter 2021.

And at Abel we’re hopeful the next 12 months will be much better than what we’ve endured in 2020.

Finally, we’d like to thank all our clients, colleagues, and our community for your support this year.

Here’s to hope, happiness and to happier times ahead.

Property Trends in the Rental Market in 2020

In this two-minute read, we look at how the private rental sector changed in 2020.

2020 is the year the property world’s most famous mantra – location, location, location – was replaced with a new motto: space, space, space.

In the past, if tenants couldn’t afford a spacious property in a great location, they tended to opt for location and compromise on space. 

It was better, most people thought, to have a shorter commute and less living space (after all, most of us practically lived at the office anyway, right?).

Well, Covid-19 put paid to that. Living and working through a pandemic means that many tenants now prioritise space – indoor and outdoor – over proximity to public transport and the office.

According to Rightmove, two-bedroom houses have replaced studio flats as the most in-demand property type, as renters look for a spare room or office to work from home.

Meanwhile, Savills reports that 96% of letting agents are getting more enquiries for properties with gardens.

But the race for space wasn’t the only property trend of 2020. Here are a few others:  

Pet-friendly properties – We all went gaga for puppies and kittens during lockdown, resulting in increased demand for rental properties that allow tenants to keep pets. If you’re a landlord who previously had a firm no pets policy, it may be worth reconsidering if the tenant ticks all the boxes. It’s a great way to build loyalty with a five-star tenant.

Storage is a winner – Many millennials don’t own a car, but take their pastimes – cycling, paddle boarding, electric scooting – very seriously. Having a separate space such as a shed or lock-up where they can keep their kit is highly desirable.

Green theme – Many tenants are impressed if a property has double glazing, insulation, or photovoltaics. Not only do they welcome these features from an environmental perspective, cash-conscious renters like the lower energy bills that come with them. 

Fast internet connection – With more and more people working from home (WFH), good broadband is a must, especially if more than one professional lives in the property. During lockdown, some renters had to have a WiFi rota with their flatmates because the connection was so poor only one person could be online at a time. In the modern world, access to a cracking internet connection is vital.

Marketing advice

If your Hertford property has some or all of these desirable features, make sure you shout about them in your marketing. And even though we’ve highlighted how vital space is, that doesn’t mean that location is irrelevant – just don’t solely view it in relation to workplace connectivity.

Use your marketing to paint a picture of the lifestyle that a tenant in your property could lead. Farmers markets, allotments, cycle paths, parks, and nature reserves are all big winners.

If you’d like more advice on how to market your rental property in 2021, get in touch with us here at Abel.

Copyright 2020 Abel

Five Fun Festive Activities You Can Do with the Kids

In this two-minute read, we look at five Christmassy things to do with the kids that won’t break the bank.

Covid-19 has put the kibosh on big family gatherings and trips to the panto this Christmas, but there are still plenty of ways you can get into the festive spirit with your little ones. 

Here are five low-cost activities that will bring comfort and joy to your children during the holiday season.

1. Go on a Christmas lights walk/drive

Kids love a bit of razzle-dazzle so take them on a night-time tour – either by foot or car – of the most bling light displays in your area. Make an event out of it by taking along a flask of hot chocolate, and a few Christmas treats to nibble on as you marvel at the inflatable Santas, luminous reindeers, and flashing penguins on show.

2. Get crafty

Turn pine cones into mini Christmas trees with this easy-peasy craft project. The first step is to source your pine cones (from either the floor of your local woods or a craft shop). Give each pine cone a coat of green paint. Let them dry and then paint the edge of each pine cone scale white to represent snow. Add splodges of red and gold paint for lights, and glue on pom poms for baubles.

3. Make a festive video

If your children are more tech-savvy than you, let them take the lead on this project. They’ll relish the chance to show you how clever they are. For your video, you could dress in Santa hats and mime to a popular Christmas tune, or write your own mini script. Most mobile phones come with an app (such as iMovie or FilmoraGo) that will allow you to create a professional number in no time. Share your video with grandparents and family friends and then bask in the rave reviews.

4. Create a grotto at home

If you can’t go to Santa’s grotto this year, bring it to you by turning a spare room, loft, shed or cubby house into a cosy Christmas cave. Block out any light by pulling the curtains or taping black cardboard to the windows. Drape red, green, and gold fabric and hang fairy lights, paper chains, snowflakes, and candy canes. Go OTT; the kids will love it.

5. Bake

Christmas tree meringues make great festive sweet treats. Mix up a standard meringue mix and add green food colouring and a dash of peppermint extract. Then pipe (you’ll need a piping bag, star-shaped piping nozzle, and a steady hand) the mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper. Start with a circle about 8cm in diameter and continue upwards in ever-decreasing circles. Add sprinkles as baubles and then bake in the oven. Delicious.

Here at Abel, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Copyright 2020 Abel

The Best Way Hertford Landlords Can Enjoy Peace Of Mind at Christmas

In this two-minute read, we look at why landlords who self-manage their buy-to-lets can never really put their feet up at Christmas.

Picture this: It’s 4pm on Christmas Day, and you’ve just snuggled down on the sofa to watch a bit of telly. Your belly is full, and your lids are heavy after a Mistletoe Margarita or two (or three, but who’s counting?). Then your phone rings. It’s your tenant – and there’s a problem. 

A pipe has burst in the flat that they rent from you and there is water everywhere. You need to get a plumber on it straight away, and you need to make sure the electricity is off, or someone could get electrocuted. The tenant, who has a small child, is panicked and upset. You have no choice but to spring into action (and sober up) – and write-off the rest of Christmas.

What frustrates you most, as you to and fro with tradespeople and the tenant over the next few days, is that your flat is in good nick. When it comes to maintenance, you do all the right things.

But no matter how diligent you are as a landlord, you can never guarantee that something won’t go wrong at the worst possible time. 

There are things you can do to minimise the risks, but luck also plays a part. 

Ahhh, nobody told me that as a landlord I’d be on call 24 hours a day, every day.

There is a way to avoid all this hassle and stress – let us here at Abelmanage your property for you. That way, when the pipe bursts on Christmas Day, you get to stay on the couch (result!), and we deal with everything for you.

You do, of course, pay for this service and some landlords baulk at that. They prefer to save themselves a little bit of cash and bear all the responsibility themselves. Often, they treat the role of landlord as a full-time job, so they can manage all the paperwork, meet all the legal regs, and deal with tenants and tradespeople.

But unless you got into the private rental sector because you wanted a second career in property management, you might ask if it’s worth doing everything yourself.

It’s one thing to arrange routine maintenance when you’re having a quiet week at work, or to take a day off to meet tenants at the start of a tenancy, but what happens when your diary is packed?

If you need to travel for work or want to go away on holiday, who’s holding the fort for you? If you’re engulfed in a major crisis at the office, and there’s an emergency at your property, how will you cope?

Just because it’s Christmas, New Year, or the Champions League Final, doesn’t mean a boiler can’t pack it in, or a tenant can’t get caught in a messy midnight dispute with a neighbour.

We acknowledge that these are worst-case scenarios; most tenancies run fairly smoothly with only the odd hiccup­­. But as a landlord, you need to be prepared for the unexpected.

If you’d like to learn more about the property management service we offer here at Abel, please get in touch. 

Copyright 2020 Abel

Two decisions Hertford Landlords Need to Think about Carefully

In this three-minute read, we look at the two biggest decisions landlords in Hertford make when renting out their property. 

Life is a daily merry-go-round of decision making.

What to eat for breakfast?

Which coat to put on?

Which queue to stand in at the supermarket (socially distanced, of course)?

Some decisions are a lot more impactful than others.

Especially when you are a landlord with a rental property.

The two biggest choices for you as a landlord, which we are about to reveal, can have substantial knock-on effects on your health, wealth, and happiness.

The choice is yours

It’s no exaggeration to say that if a landlord chooses the wrong letting agent and compounds that error by going with a tenant who has not been appropriately vetted, one thing is usually guaranteed – a big headache.

And often one that’s not easily cured by a couple of aspirin.

Poorly vetted tenants cause the most problems and letting agencies that don’t have stringent policies, procedures, and checks in place, leave their landlords wide open for future issues.

At Abel, we’ve always believed the most critical aspect of our role is to ensure the right tenants are placed in suitable properties with the right landlords.

How do we do that?

Well, years of letting experience has taught us what to keep an eye out for.

The first stage of the vetting process is the initial enquiry. Be it a phone call, email or someone popping in to our office, we’re looking for signs to show us whether they might be a perfect or problematic tenant.

That experience we mentioned counts a great deal at this point.

What does a good tenant look like?

Simply someone who pays their rent on time, looks after the property like it’s their own, is courteous to deal with, and causes no problems with the neighbours.

These are all factors which can create the foundations for a successful long-term let (unless of course, the landlord is seeking a short-term tenancy).

The next part of the process is where less adept or inexperienced agencies often fall short.

Referencing responsibly

Good quality referencing is vital for doing the background checks, which can flag up issues before they become problems.

Referencing covers the applicant’s employment, credit scores, and previous rental history.

It’s not an exact science, but when done correctly, it’s usually an excellent indication of the calibre of the person applying to rent your property.

Once a tenant has been selected, the property needs to be professionally and ethically managed.

Keeping a tenant waiting a long time for a boiler repair or regular maintenance could lead to issues in the future, which leads us onto…

It works both ways

We also apply a vetting process to our landlords as well as our tenants.

If you are not willing to repair or maintain your property properly, we are probably not the letting agents for you.

In the same way that we always look to find the best tenants, we also want to work with the most responsible landlords.

If, having read this article, you’ve decided you need a letting agent who takes their responsibilities to you seriously in 2021, give us a call.

We’d love to help you make the correct choices for you, your tenants, and your rental investments.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2020 Abel

Yule Love Our Four Facts about Popular Christmas Traditions

In this two-minute read, we trace the origins of some of the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas.

Christmas is a time of mistletoe and mulled wine, twinkly trees, and messages from the monarch.

And in Hertford it seems like many people can’t wait for the festive break.

So, let’s explore the history behind the enduring Christmas customsmany of us enjoy.

Why do we decorate Christmas trees?

In Pagan times, evergreens were placed in the home to ward off evil spirits and to remind people during the depths of winter that spring would return.

By the 16th century, devout Christians in Germany, who believed evergreen trees symbolised everlasting life, had taken things a step further. They decorated evergreen conifers with apples, paper roses, and candles (which they then lit) creating an incredible spectacle – and a terrible fire hazard.

King George III and his German wife Charlotte were among the first to adopt the Christmas tree tradition in England, and it was later popularised by Queen Victoria and her German-born husband, Albert.

Mulled wine

The Romans get the credit for introducing this tipple to Europe in the 2nd century. They heated their wine to ward off the cold and added spices (to promote good health) and natural sweeteners (because the wine tasted awful).  

Later, other countries devised their own variations. The Germans guzzled glühwein, the Swedes glugged glögg, and the Brits got through the Great Plague by knocking back “mulled sack”, which was safer to drink than the water.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that mulled wine became synonymous with Christmas. Charles Dickens mentions it his novel A Christmas Carol. The Victorian author namechecks Smoking Bishop, a mix of red wine, port, oranges, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. We’ll drink to that, Tiny Tim!

Mistletoe mystery 

Historians are still not sure exactly how this tradition got started. What they do know is that the Greeks, Romans, and Druids all prized mistletoe as a source of healing, vitality, and fertility.

The plant is also associated with Frigg, the Norse goddess of motherhood and fertility, whose son was killed by an arrow made from mistletoe (doesn’t sound very Christmassy to us).

While this is all rather interesting, it doesn’t explain why servants in Britain began to “kiss under the mistletoe” sometime between 1720 and 1784. Perhaps someone below stairs got a bit lairy after one too many pints of mulled sack.

Royal message

We all know the Royal Christmas Broadcast as the Queen’s Speech, but originally it was the King’s Speech. George V delivered the first Royal Broadcast on Christmas Day in 1932.

Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather gave his radio address from a small office in Sandringham at 3pm, as this was the best time for reaching most of the countries in the Empire by shortwave.

The Queen delivered her first Christmas message in 1952 and her first televised message in 1957. She’ll deliver her 68th Christmas message this year.

We’ll be sharing our Christmas and New Year opening hours with you soon.

Copyright 2020 AGENCY Abel

How the VERY Rich Live – A Billionaire’s Christmas List

At Abel, we always charge our clients a value for money fee unlike some of the eye-watering prices you’re about to discover. Here are what billionaires are willing to stump up for shoes, burgers, a photo, some vino, and an unbelievable home – a three-minute read.

Have you written out your Christmas wish list yet?

If your loved ones have given you theirs, and you’ve thought, ‘do they think I’m made of money?’, consider yourself lucky.

The letters to Santa from the mega-rich contain some incredibly pricey everyday items.

Wine

£237,000 (yep, you read that right)

A bottle of wine for good neighbours is usually seen as a nice gift. But the 1947 Cheval Blanc is probably only something Jeff Bezos could afford to give to the people over the road. This rare vintage was thought to be the only bottle of its type when it sold at a 2011 auction for a record amount.

Burger

£1,785                                                                    

What better way to finish a socially distanced Christmas shopping trip than grabbing a burger?

The Guinness World Records confirmed that a Dutch Chef had made the priciest piece of fast food on the planet. The Diego’s Wagyu burger is made up of Wagyu steak, lobster, caviar, foie gras, truffle, and 24-carat gold leaf. You’ll probably want to savour EVERY mouthful, very slowly.

Suit

£450,000

While this Christmas will see many of us having smaller than usual gatherings, a lot of us like to dress up smartly on 25 December.

A diamond merchant, Laljibhai Patel, paid a record-breaking £450,000 at a charity auction for a suit which was personalised with gold monogrammed stripes. The outfit used to belong to India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. So, not only did Patel buy a second-hand suit, but it also had someone else’s name all over it – literally.

Photograph

£3.36m (And it’s not that nice)

The festive period is often a great time to be at home, make memories, and take photos. But if you had the kind of cash that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has, you might be tempted to buy Andreas Gursky’s snap Rhein II for your living room wall. We think we take much better photos of the properties we sell. If you Google the crazily expensive photo, you’ll see what we mean.

Now, one thing we do know a lot about at Abel, is the values of homes in Hertford.

We know what will be popular with buyers when we see it.

But in all honesty, the world’s most expensive home, called Antilia, which is owned by Indian business magnate Mukesh Ambani, left us scratching our heads at its valuation.

The 27-storey Mumbai tower block comes complete with a 50-seat theatre, three helipads, a ballroom, 168-car garage, and even its own air traffic control room.

And there was us thinking that a friend’s Christmas tree that we saw on social media was over the top.

The building is valued at around £1.6 BILLION. But architecturally, it looks like something a five-year-old has stuck together while distracted when watching CBeebies. (Again, Google it and you’ll see what we mean.)

Most of the buyers we show around the homes we sell are looking for much simpler creature comforts.

And while billionaire buyers are a rare breed, there are still plenty of serious buyers looking to move in Hertford. And at the top of their Christmas wish list, is finding a new place to call home in 2021.

Thanks for reading and if we can help you with any of your property needs, please get in touch.

Copyright 2020 Abel

Five Super Tips to Make Renting Simpler in Hertford

In this two-minute read, we look at five fantastic tips to help people looking to rent a property in Hertford.

One thing that seems almost Covid-19 proof is the desire for people in Hertford to move home. The local rental property market has proven resilient this year, with people looking to rent new places to call home.

Below are five tips that’ll come in handy if you’re looking to rent.

1.            Prepare Properly

Consider when you want to move and where you want to rent. Research the areas and the properties in your price range. Create a clear budget and include moving costs, council tax, and any utility bills. Make a list of letting agents to check out.

2.            Points on Views

Unless you hit the jackpot immediately, and the first property you see is the one you want to rent, chances are you’ll look at a few different places. Carry a notebook and pen with you to scribble down the plus and minus points of each property. You can then review this at your leisure.

3.            Act Quickly

When you have found a place you really want to rent, move fast. Good properties go quickly, so make your offer, and we’ll look after the negotiations.

4.            Relevant References

If the landlord is happy with your offer and has accepted it, you will then go through to the referencing stage. To go ahead with the tenancy, we’ll need to carry out a few reference checks. Along with identification such as National Insurance number and photo ID, we’ll need bank statements covering the last three months, your last three payslips, and references from your employer and previous landlord (if any), and sometimes your employment contract.

5.            Contract Agreed

Once your references have been successfully processed, you will be asked to read and sign your contract. It is there to protect both you and your landlord, so if you do not understand anything, please ask us. We want everyone to be happy. You will also be given suppliers’ details for your utilities and council tax. It is up to you to deal with them throughout your tenancy.

Then it’s time to confirm a moving day, pack up your stuff, get moved in, and start enjoying your new place.

At Abel, we help hundreds of tenants move successfully across Hertford every year.

Copyright 2020 AGENCY NAME

How People in Hertford Can Have Their Greenest Christmas Ever

Who says you can’t have a great time this Christmas AND do your bit for Planet Earth? In this two-minute read, we look at some simple things people in Hertford can do to make the festive period as eco-friendly as possible.

There’s been some positive vaccine news starting to come out in the UK and across the world.

But the news around our planet’s health isn’t as rosy. On Wednesday (2 December), United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged nations to make radical changes before it’s too late.

It’s obvious now that climate change needs tackling with as much energy and vigour as finding a vaccine for Covid-19 was.

The good news is we can all play a positive part, even at Christmas.

Here are six wonderful ways to keep it green this festive period.

  1. Get Real – You would have to use your artificial Christmas tree for more than 20 years for it to be greener than one real tree.
  2. It’s a Wrap – Use recycled paper or fabric to wrap up those pressies.
  3. Plastic Not So Fantastic – Choose gifts that are certified plastic-free. Look out for trusted labels like Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and check out The Plastic Free Shop online.
  4. Glittered Up Decorations – Use plant-based glitter, which is much kinder to the environment.
  5. Lasting Memories – Instead of a jumper that never gets worn, why not give a loved one an experience-based gift. Just Google ‘experience gifts’ and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
  6. Waste Not Want Not – We all know Christmas is a time when we relax and eat a little more than we should. But it pays to be mindful of the amount of food waste that happens over the holiday period. Plan ahead to reduce the waste and all its negative environmental impacts.

Doing any of the above won’t reduce your happiness this Christmas. Look at it this way, by going greener, you’re giving a priceless gift to future generations.

At Abel, we’re about much more than just property. We love to do all we can for our clients, our community, and our climate.

What’s your best environmentally-friendly Christmas tip you’d like to share with your neighbours in Hertford?

Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2020 Abel  

The Hertford Homebuyers’ Guide to the Cost of Moving

In this two-minute read, we outline the costs and fees associated with buying a property so that you can budget for your next move.

Buying a new home can be an exciting prospect, but often in the thrill of the search, buyers fail to budget for some of the costs that are part and parcel of the process.

Consumer champion Which? estimates moving costs on average of £10,000 (that’s excluding deposit), although this figure varies depending on the value of the new property.

By starting with a clear picture of all the fees you’re likely to incur, you can avoid any last-minute surprises and the indignity of raiding your toddler’s moneybox to pay the removal crew on moving day.

Here’s a checklist of moving-related costs.

Stamp Duty – This is a tiered tax – the more expensive the property, the more you pay. Due to the pandemic, temporary changes are in place, meaning Stamp Duty does not apply to the first £500,000 of a property purchase. This rule ends on 31 March 2021.

Legal fees – The cost of conveyancing – that’s the paperwork that secures the legal transfer of property – varies depending on whether you’re buying a freehold or leasehold property (expect leasehold to cost you more). Tip: When you’re getting conveyancing quotes, check the final price includes VAT, search fees and Land Registry fees.

Valuation fee – If you’re taking out a mortgage, your lender will insist on a valuation to ensure that you’re not paying over the odds for your new home.

Mortgage fees – Some mortgage deals include an arrangement fee or an application fee (or both).

Survey fees – Different types of surveys are available. The most basic option should be a few hundred quid, while the most comprehensive survey can cost thousands of pounds.

Insurance – Most lenders insist on buildings insurance as part of the terms of the mortgage. It covers the cost of repairing your home in the event of a disaster such as a flood, fire, or falling tree.

Removals – Removal costs vary depending on how far you’re going and how much stuff you have (are you a minimalist or a hoarder?). The website comparemymove.com estimates it costs £800 to move belongings from a three-bed house to a property 50 miles away. Throw in another £250 for packing and materials.

Redirecting mail – If you’re planning on redirecting your mail to your new address (not such a bad idea in this era of identity fraud), Royal Mail charges £80 for 12 months.

The team at Abel can ensure your move goes smoothly. If you need advice or have any questions about the moving process, please get in touch. We’re here to help.