Ten Ways People in Hertford can Avoid Cringeworthy Property Photos

In this three-minute read, we look at the dos and don’ts of photography when it comes to marketing a property.

When selling or letting a property, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of getting the imagery right.

As most buyers and renters spend hours scrolling through property portals before arranging viewings, first impressions are crucial.

So why then do so many people get it wrong? Such is the volume of bad estate agency photos out there, that there are entire websites dedicated to mocking dodgy property pics (check out Terrible Estate Agency Photos).

To avoid becoming an object of ridicule, here is a list of what NOT to include in your marketing photos.

Grandpa, grandma or any other family member. Property photos that include people always look a bit creepy. It’s never okay, even if the person is sitting in the background or giving a friendly wave.

Boarded up windows and doors. If windows and doors are badly damaged or boarded up, replace them – or at the very least don’t photograph them.

Doll collections. Whenever we see lots of dolls in a room (and yes, we have seen this in property photos) we immediately think of Chucky from Child’s Play (he still gives us nightmares). Dolls, along with mannequins and skeletons, belong on horror film sets only.

Bathrooms covered in mould. Always give your home a good scrub before it goes on the market. People don’t want to view a property that comes with a health warning.

Outdoor items left indoors. Lawn mowers, quad bikes and trampolines all belong outside. If for some reason you keep them inside, understand that this is not normal. Remove them from the premises before taking marketing photographs.

Animals. All creatures great and small should be left out of property photos. They only serve as a distraction and make people wonder if the house smells.

Badly photoshopped images. Don’t be tempted to digitally add a dining table or a sofa to a photo of an unfurnished room. It never looks convincing; the furniture always looks like it is levitating ever so slightly off the floor. Other no-nos include adding sunsets or wildlife to images of the back garden.

Mirror images. When taking pictures of a room that has a mirror, a photographer can inadvertently capture their own reflection. This is too Alfred Hitchcock for our liking. Photographers should always position themselves carefully to avoid making a cameo appearance in the photo.

Intimate portraits of your lover/husband/wife. So, you’ve been to life drawing classes and are rather proud of that racy charcoal sketch you did of your beloved. We love your creativity but please keep such personal items out of sight.

Broken furniture piled high. People will be put off by the thought of having to fork out for a skip (or two) to remove your junk.

These are the most extreme examples of property photo fails, but the principle stands for all property marketing imagery. Make sure every room is clutter-free and clean and plan the shots.

Ideally get a professional to take the photographs for you. They’ll understand how to make the best use of light and to make rooms look spacious and airy.

Here at Abel we get the picture. We’re experts at showing homes at their best and always use professional property photos.

How to Avoid a Tenant Leaving You a Nasty Surprise

In this three-minute read, we look at the unusual things that tenants have left behind after moving out and explain how landlords can avoid post-tenancy clean-up bills.

End-of-tenancy checks can spring all manner of surprises on landlords. Take, for example, the landlord in north-west London who discovered an abandoned kitten when taking possession of a property back in August.

The tenants had shot through and left the black and white fluff ball behind. Thankfully, our hero landlord rang the local rescue centre, The Mayhew, and raised the alarm.

An animal welfare officer was quickly on the scene and the feline fella, believed to be about six weeks old, is now in good hands (and goes by the name of Bubbles).

Thankfully, this story had a happy ending, but not all end-of-tenancy inspection discoveries are quite so cute and cuddly.

People leave all sorts behind when they vacate a property ranging from your run-of-the-mill stuff like fans, microwaves, clothes rails, chairs, and shoes. To the downright weird such as false teeth, fish tanks (with fish), pot-bellied pigs and wig collections.

The detritus is usually shabby, often broken, and most definitely an annoyance to the landlord left to sort out the mess (which is usually accompanied by a bin bag or two of general rubbish).

But a word of warning for landlords: before you head to the tip with a car-load of tenant trash, make sure that all items can clearly be construed as rubbish.

A landlord can face repercussions if they dispose of property belonging to a former tenant without permission.

The risk is that a landlord bins what looks like a tired old pot, and then the tenant turns up weeks later claiming it was a family heirloom – that contained Great Aunt Bertha’s ashes. Cue costly legal action.

Landlords need to tread a careful line and check the wording of a tenancy agreement before clearing a property.

If items look like they have some value, you need to show that you’ve taken reasonable steps to contact the former tenant and request collection. (A 21-day deadline is standard, but it’s always worth getting legal advice first.)

In some cases, landlords have to store the items, which can be bulky, while all this plays out.

To avoid playing babysitter to a former tenant’s bric-a-brac, be proactive from the start of a tenancy. Keep a thorough inventory to deter a tenant from running off with your belongings and prevent them from offloading unwanted possessions onto you.

Also, conduct regular inspections throughout a tenancy to ensure junk isn’t piling up. If the property starts looking like something off the TV show Hoarders, then you need to step in before it spirals out of control.

And of course, when a tenancy is coming to an end, maintain regular contact with tenants and make sure that they understand that they need to take their belongings with them when they go.

All this might sound time-consuming, but it will save you time and money. It also means that the property will be in good condition and able to be re-let straight away.

If you want to ensure your Hertford property doesn’t end up looking like a junkyard, get in touch with us here at Abel. We can handle the inventories, inspections and end-of-tenancy checks so that you can rest easy.

Will You Start Stopping Bad Habits in Hertford Next Month?

In this 90-second speed read, we look at the things people are stopping and starting in October.

2020 will go down in history as the year when life stopped, albeit temporarily.

And with local lockdowns coming into force, that feeling of stop-starting stuff is still around.

It’s a little like the hokey cokey but with stop-start replacing in-out.

This all makes it a little ironic that next month is now synonymous not just with falling leaves and trick or treating, but with people trying to put a stop to bad habits and start healthier new ones.

Stoptober – Stoptober is back for 2020, to encourage the UK’s smokers to try to quit for October and beyond. The NHS has strong evidence that if a smoker can quit for 28 days, they are five times more likely to quit forever.

Sober October – It started out in Australia more than ten years ago and is a way of encouraging people to ditch the booze for 31 days. Many use this challenge to raise money for charity while not lifting a glass of alcohol to their lips.

The multiple health benefits of stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol seem increasingly attractive as medical experts are urging us all to do things to boost our immune systems.

Non-Stop Property Market in Hertford

From a property perspective, the market hasn’t stopped flying high since the national lockdown ended.

The summer months of July and August are traditionally slower months for the home moving market, but this year there’s been no stopping it.

Whether they’re looking to buy, sell or rent, people are remaining active, and this looks likely to continue until December at the earliest.

Good luck

So, if you are looking to start a new chapter in your life by adopting a positive new habit, ending a negative old one or finding a new place to call home, we wish you well.

We can help with the moving part, but ditching the drink and cigarettes is down to you, good luck.

Don’t Delay If You Want to Save Money on Moving in Hertford

In this two-minute read, we look at why movers in Hertford need to act now if they want to save thousands of pounds in cash.

The legendary American author Mark Twain famously said this about procrastination: ‘Never put off till tomorrow which may be done the day after tomorrow.’

And while it might be a useful mantra when doing something mundane like mowing the lawn or some home DIY, it doesn’t apply to the housing market in Hertford right now.

The national lockdown and subsequent localised ones are causing delays in the home moving process.

If you are thinking of moving and cashing in and making the most of the Stamp Duty holiday which could see you save up to £15,000, you’ll need to get going soon, very soon.

The Sunday Times recently published an article that said October 12 was the deadline for people to put their homes up for sale if they wanted to complete the transaction before the tax holiday ends on March 31.

It also reported that there were longer than usual delays when getting mortgage valuations, property surveys, local authority searches and having conveyancing work carried out.

These are all essential components of most property transactions.

The newspaper said these Covid-19 related delays had caused a ‘Backlog Britain’.

Its sentiments were echoed by the property law website – Today’s Conveyancer – which said: “Pre-Covid-19 the time it took (from the marketing of the property) to find a buyer was, on average, 79 days, and the total time from listing to moving into a property was 187.

If that average holds, then by consulting your calendars you’ll know that September 25 is 187 days before March 31 next year when the property purchasing tax holiday is due to end.”

Either way, if it is October 12 or September 25, the key thing to do is to act now if you want to beat the backlog and move while the financial incentives are in place.

Today’s Conveyancer also published some tips, including those below, to help you speed up the process if you are thinking of selling or buying a new home.

1) The seller should instruct their conveyancer on listing the property for sale.

2) Ask their conveyancer to review the property information forms and title and to identify any issues which might impact a sale.

3) The buyer should obtain a mortgage decision in principle ahead of putting an offer forward.

4) The buyer should instruct a conveyancer prior to making an offer.

The full article is well worth a read and can be found via this link: https://tinyurl.com/y59k254r

So, it’s crystal clear, if you want to move before the March 31 deadline you need to act now to give yourself the best chance.

We’d love to be able to help you achieve this and make the most of the busy market we’re experiencing in Hertford.

Give us a call on 01992 532 222 to find out how we can help you beat the delays and get moving.

Ten Things Landlords in Hertford Need to Know

In this three-minute read, we look at the ten most important things a landlord needs to succeed.

If you’re contemplating becoming a landlord, here’s a helpful checklist explaining what it takes to let a property.

You may wonder why a checklist is necessary. After all, how hard can it be? You buy a property, find a tenant, and boom, you’ve got the whole landlord game figured out. Wrong!

The private rental sector is subject to so many rules and regulations that even experienced landlords get caught out and make costly mistakes.

Here’s what you need to know.

1 Legal matters – There are at least 175 laws that apply to landlords in the UK, covering everything from evictions to electrical checks. You need to be on top of all of them. Claiming ignorance (or that the dog ate your tenancy agreement) won’t get you off the hook if you get caught out.

2 Record keeping – It’s vital to maintain a clear paper trail so that if you get into a dispute, you have evidence to support your case. If you’re the kind of person who files important paperwork down the back of the sofa, consider getting someone to do it for you.

3 Vigilance – No matter how nice your tenant seems to be, regular inspections are a must as they allow you to nip problems in the bud. Lax landlords run the risk of discovering that their property has been sub-let, trashed in a series of all-night parties or, holy smoke, turned into a cannabis farm.

4 Take out insurance – We’re not talking about standard home and contents insurance, but specific landlord insurance. (It’s usually a condition of buy-to-let mortgages.) Various policies are available, ranging from top-tier versions that cover almost every eventuality, to no-frills options.

5 People management – Dealing with people is a major part of being a landlord. Most tenants are reliable and honest, but some, unfortunately, can be infuriating. If a tenant falls into the latter category, you need to remain cool-headed when dealing with them. Good landlords make business decisions, not emotional ones.

6 Maintenance – Routine maintenance stops minor issues becoming major structural problems. It helps to have a network of reliable tradespeople who you can call on when you need work done.

7 Tenant selection – Invest time at the beginning of a tenancy to find the right tenant. Never rush the process when it comes to reference and credit checks.

8 Tax implications – The tax rules covering rental properties have been significantly reformed in recent years. It’s worth getting advice from an expert to ensure you understand what you need to pay and what you can claim back.

9 Understand the market – Successful landlords in Hertford understand the lie of the land, so that when it comes to setting the rent, they are bang on the money. Getting the price right means your property won’t be sitting empty for long periods.

10 Back-up – Good landlords don’t blunder their way through – they have back-up in the form of a reputable letting agent. If you want support dealing with complicated legislation, handling problematic tenants and managing day-to-day admin and maintenance, get yourself a good letting agent. Remember, mistakes can be costly.

Here at Abel, we can help you to become a successful landlord and to see healthy returns on your property investment.

Seven Ways you can Help the Planet in Hertford

In this three-minute read, we look at ways to make your home more energy efficient.

With 40% of UK carbon emissions coming from households, the road to a cleaner, greener planet starts at home.

First, the good news (yes, there is some)

In 1990, the average UK home generated 12.8 tonnes of CO2. (To get this figure, the Committee on Climate Change analysed data on heating, electricity, transport, aviation and waste.)

By 2014, this figure had dropped to 8.1 tonnes of CO2. The aim now is to get the average down to 4.5 tonnes of CO2 by 2030.

Greener homes

One way to reduce our emissions is to re-think how we heat and cool our homes. There are some tried and tested ways to do this, along with some new technologies that are now commercially available.

All these measures will reduce your carbon footprint, cut your energy bills and add value to your property, making it more marketable should you wish to sell it at a later date. Win, win, win.

1 Insulation

It’s not new, and it’s not sexy (well not to us anyway), but insulation is one of the best ways to retain heat in your home.

A home loses a quarter of its heat through the roof, so if you haven’t insulated your loft yet, get cracking. Homes built after the 1920s are likely to have cavity walls – another source of heat loss. Insulating cavity walls is a job for a registered specialist. Do not try it yourself.

2 LED lights

Replace halogen lights with LEDs. Along with saving energy, LEDs last longer meaning you won’t have to replace the bulbs as often.

3 Draught-proofing

Admit it, for years you thought your Nan’s Dachshund draught excluder was a bit naff. Well, who’s laughing now, eh?

Often as properties age, small gaps form around windows, letterboxes, loft hatches and fireplaces allowing warm air out and cold air in. There are lots of DIY products available to help you to plug these gaps.

4 Double and triple glazing

Double glazing cuts heat lost through windows by half (Source: Energy Saving Trust). If you want even more bang for your buck, opt for triple glazing.

5 Air source heat pump (ASHP)

An ASHP can heat your home and your water. It works by transferring heat in the air outside into your home (and works even in minus 30 temperatures).

ASHPs produce low levels of heat for long periods, unlike a conventional boiler system where you crank up the radiators for a brief spell until they’re hot to touch. ASHPs work best with underfloor heating or larger radiators.

6 Solar panels

These convert the sun’s energy into electricity for your home. Solar panels work best on south-facing roofs with a pitch angle of about 30 or 40 degrees and no overhanging trees.

7 Shutters or brise soleil

Ironically, some new builds are so well insulated that heat retention is the central issue. As temperatures continue to rise, some UK householders are installing Mediterranean-style shutters to keep their homes cool in summer.

Brise soleil – shade structures that deflect sun at the hottest part of the day – are also becoming more popular.

(((FOR ENGLAND ONLY))))

The Green Home Grants scheme helps cover some of the costs of making a home more energy efficient. Learn more here:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-green-homes-grant-scheme

Here at Abel, we’re happy to advise on the best ways to create a more energy efficient home that’ll start saving the planet and be kinder on your pocket.

The Countdown Has Begun in Hertford

A two-minute read.

Sometimes we all must talk about things we feel uncomfortable discussing.

It could be with a neighbour whose parking is driving you to distraction.

Or your colleague who doesn’t know the meaning of leaving the work kitchen as they’d like to find it.

Maybe it’s the sweat-inducing chat about the birds and the bees with your growing children.

Whatever it is that makes you fidget in your seat at the thought of, rest assured at Abel we feel your discomfort as we are about to discuss … Christmas.

Before you douse us with the last of your summer wine or lecture us about it being the middle of September, please let us explain.

Today (16 September) marks 100 days until 25 December.

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a year most of the planet earth will want to forget so some festive cheer, no matter how far away it seems, will be a welcome relief to many of us. Even if we can’t celebrate with our nearest and dearest due to wherever we’re at with social distancing in December.

Some Good News

Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown stated that studies found that people who put their festive decorations up early are often happier than those who delay. So why wait until December?

In all seriousness, many people who are looking to buy a new home use the Christmas period as a space on the calendar to get things done by. We often hear people declare they want to ‘be in by Christmas’.

The thought of sitting on your sofa in your new home, watching the Queen’s speech with a sherry in one hand and a mince pie in the other, is appealing to many property seekers.

But if you want to turn that thought into reality, you’ll need to act – now.

By putting your home up for sale now, you give yourself a chance of being somewhere else by Christmas.

The second half of September is rated as a ‘good’ time to sell your home by the advice site TheAdvisory.co.uk. And we agree with them.

The best-case scenario is that your sale and onward purchase (if there is one) are smooth ones, enabling you to make the 25 December deadline.

But even if you don’t wake up on Christmas Day in your new place, you’ll have given yourself a great head start to be in a new home for the start of a new year.

Whenever you are thinking of moving, we’d love to help you do it successfully.

Thanks for reading and this will be the last time we mention Christmas, until after Halloween at the very earliest, Scout’s Honour.

Four Simple Steps to Ensuring Your Hertford Home Is Gas Safe

In this three-minute read, we look at why landlords MUST take gas safety very seriously.

This Monday (14th) sees the tenth annual Gas Safety Week begin.

The awareness campaign is timed to get people thinking about and checking their gas appliances as the autumn chill starts to take hold.

Gas Safety Week’s goal is to raise awareness among homeowners and landlords about the crucial importance of having their gas appliances serviced every year.

And while homeowners don’t legally need an annual gas safety certificate – landlords do.

You cannot lawfully start a tenancy unless a gas safety check has been carried out and a certificate (sometimes called a landlord’s gas safety record) issued, to show everything is in good working order.

The penalties for being caught without one are severe, as they should be.

They can include:

Invalidated insurance.

Up to £6000 in fines.

Six months in prison.

Court action from a tenant who is suing for civil damages.

In the worst-case scenario, criminal charges if death or injury is caused by faulty gas appliances.

What responsible landlords can do

Gas Safety Week reminds people of the dangers of poorly maintained gas appliances, which can lead to gas leaks, fires, and carbon monoxide poisoning. All of which can kill.

Here are four simple steps you can do to keep you and your tenants gas safe.

1) Have your gas appliances checked every 12 months. No excuses. A good letting agent who manages your property will get this organised for you.

2) Verify that any engineer you employ is Gas Safe registered (previously called CORGI). Gas Safe engineers work to a set standard and are tested regularly. Again, this is something we can do for you under our fully managed package.

3) Check your engineer’s Gas Safe ID card. Any engineer worthy of employing will have no issue showing you this, and you can verify it online with the Gas Safe Register. Guess what? We do this on behalf of our landlords who use our fully managed service.

4) Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm and test it regularly – this is a potential lifesaver and enshrined by law.

When it comes to anything gas related in your rental property, it’s always wise to think ‘if in doubt get it checked out’.

How safe is Hertford?

The Gas Safe Register website has a map which shows all the dangerous gas appliances that have been found in Hertford. It’s a map no self-respecting landlord wants to be on. To check it out, visit https://www.staygassafe.co.uk/

The demand for gas safety and heating engineers surges in October and November as boilers and heaters start firing up after the summer lull.

So, with that in mind, book your home’s appointment with a Gas Safe registered engineer in advance and beat the rush and subsequent delays.

Thanks for reading and keep yourselves safe and your tenants.

We’re here to help landlords in Hertford any way we can. So, if you have questions you want answering, or problems you need solving, contact us today.

Join the Fight Against Litter in Hertford

In this three-minute read, we look at how you can improve the local environment by joining the fight against litter.

If the sight of discarded fag butts, empty bottles and plastic wrappers makes you see red, you’re not alone.

Litter is an issue that frustrates and aggravates many people in the UK, and rightly so.
Not only is litter unsightly and expensive to remove (in 2017/18 keeping the streets clean cost local authorities £663 million), but it can damage the environment and harm wildlife.

Cigarette packets and butts top the list of items most likely to be dropped, followed by confectionary packets and soft drink bottles and cans.

Vehicle parts and clothing also make it into the top ten of most littered items, in at number eight and ten respectively.

Sign up and make a difference

The good news is that an initiative kicks off today to remove at least some of the detritus left on our beaches, streets and country lanes by litter louts.

The Great British September Clean, which runs from 11 to 27 September, promises to be one almighty tidy-up.

Run by Keep Britain Tidy, it is expected to mobilise hundreds of thousands of volunteers who will either host a clean-up in their local area with others (following the rule of six) or go solo and spend time picking up rubbish in a nearby park or open space.

The campaign came about after plans to hold a similar event – the Great British Spring Clean – were cancelled in March due to Covid-19.

Back then, a whopping 680,000 people signed up to help out. No doubt organisers hope that this time around, the sense of community and commitment is just as strong. You can sing up at https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/get-involved/support-our-campaigns/great-british-spring-clean.

Beacons of litter

It’s ironic (and slightly frustrating) that the sort of person who would never leave their rubbish behind after a picnic or day out (how hard is it to bin it or take it with you?), is also the type most likely to roll their sleeves up and litter pick.

But if you want to eradicate the scourge of litter, it really is the most effective way to stamp it out.

A study called Beacons of Litter, carried out by Keep Britain Tidy, found that if an area is free of litter, people are less likely to drop rubbish there.

Conversely, if a space is strewn with plastic, bags and paper, people think it’s socially acceptable to follow suit and leave their waste behind.

The study was carried out in Stoke Newington, London, and Stourbridge in the West Midlands over several weeks.

Researchers deliberately planted brightly coloured or ‘beacon’ items of rubbish like plastic bags and drinks bottles, and smaller pieces such as paper and tissues.

They found that in the areas with beacon litter, 35% of people disposing of waste did so by littering (gee thanks guys).

In an area with less visible, albeit still annoying, paper and tissue waste, the littering rate dropped to 22%. In tidy areas, the littering rate dropped again to 17%.

Year-round vigilance

Regular litter picks are, of course, to be applauded but another way to keep on top of the issue is to report litter in Hertford to East Herts District Council.

Frequent reporting will stop litter building up in the first place – and play a role in deterring the litter louts. Together we can make a difference.

Here at Abel, we’re committed to helping to create a tidy, welcoming local environment across Hertford.

Five Reasons Why Overvaluing Your Hertford Property Could Cost You

In this three-minute read, we look at why setting an unrealistic asking price can delay and even derail the sale of your home.

If you’re planning on putting your property on the market, there’s one key piece of advice to remember.

It’s not a slick statement from a TED Talk or the title of a trendy self-help book. It’s an age-old saying that your Nana probably used: “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Vendors should keep this in mind when looking for an agent to sell their property in Hertford because there are unscrupulous players out there who deliberately inflate valuations to secure an instruction.

They will say just about anything to lock you into a sole agency agreement.

It’s a self-centred strategy that is about lining the agent’s pockets, not serving the customer, and it can have a disastrous impact.

Here are five reasons why overvaluing your property can prove costly.

Lengthy delays
Moving home, especially if you are in a chain, can be a convoluted process at the best of times.

Starting on the wrong foot, with a totally unrealistic price, complicates things.

According to consumer watchdog Which?, overvalued homes take on average up to two months longer to sell than other properties.

In most overvaluation cases, reality kicks in after a month or two, and the vendor ends up dropping to a more realistic price (the price they probably should have asked for initially). All overvaluing achieves is a delay.

It deters buyers
If you overvalue your property, expect viewings to be slow or non-existent. A considerable amount of information about property sales is available online these days, meaning most buyers know what property in their desired area is worth. They can spot a rip-off and will steer clear or drive a hard bargain.

Buyers also tend to filter their online property searches by price, so if you’ve inflated the asking price, it might not even register in their search.

It messes with your next move
Imagine this: you find your dream home, make an offer, and it’s accepted. Hurrah! Now, all you must do is sell your existing property. The problem is the over-the-top asking price deters buyers, leaving you in limbo.

Soon, the impatient owners of your dream home ditch you for a buyer who is ready to move and you’re back to square one.

Your mortgage deal is threatened
When lenders calculate how much you can borrow, they factor in what you expect to get for your existing property. So, if an agent promises to get £400,000 for your home, and you wind up dropping to £340,000, it leaves a black hole in your finances.

All your calculations are now in tatters, and you must start again with downgraded expectations.

Trust is key
For most people, selling a home is the largest financial transaction of their life. It’s essential to go through the process with someone you trust – not someone who has trapped you into a lengthy agreement by deliberately misleading you.

Before you commit to an agent, do your research, ask for word of mouth recommendations, and prioritise professionalism and honesty over flashy claims.

Here at Abel, we promise to give you honest, expert advice about selling your home.