Welcome to February’s Newsletter

PUBLISHED: 4th Feb 2016

NEWS: China crisis

Oh dear: China's stock markets have been in free fall recently. Plus oil prices continue to head south.

What have those two newsworthy facts got to do with property news? Well, a lot: thanks to this volatility, it looks as though interest rates aren't going to be rising anytime soon, despite Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, suggesting in 2015 that a decision to raise them would be made in the new year. In late January, he said: “The year has turned and, in my view, the decision proved straightforward: now is not yet the time to raise interest rates. The world is weaker and UK growth has slowed.”

Meanwhile, at the time of writing, it's still not certain when the European referendum will be called (but smart money is on June). What happens to property prices if there's a 'Brexit'? Well, no one can see into the future — but according to a new poll, 65 per cent of property experts think leaving the EU would have a serious impact on prices.

The cowboy way

We've all seen those nightmarish, headline-grabbing stories and TV shock-umentaries about cowboy builders and rogue traders causing havoc when undertaking work in people's homes.

Now a new survey has been published, from insurance giant AXA, in which 20% of those asked said they were worried about being ‘ripped off’ by tradespeople.

But, actually, the reality of most people's experience with hiring tradespeople is more life-affirming: AXA discovered that a whopping 82 per cent of the UK’s tradespeople “regularly go above and beyond the call of duty, completing small extra tasks at no charge and completing small acts of kindness for their customers.” The survey also found that 38 per cent of tradespeople step in to fix other people's mistakes.

To prevent cowboys making a mess of your home, do your best to ensure you get one of the good guys. You can do that by never hiring a cold caller and always getting at least three quotes (in writing) from three different tradespeople. Ask to see examples of their work or, if that isn't possible, ask them for some recommendations from previous customers. Lastly, ensure that the person you hire is a member of a recognised trade body.

Don't land in the red

According to latest figures, 37 per cent of landlords experienced rental arrears last year. That's a scary figure because unpaid rent means unpaid bills, which can lead into a spiral of debt.

So how can landlords prevent rent arrears? Firstly, make sure — as best you can — that you have a good, solid vetting procedure in place when it comes to checking out prospective tenants. That means being sure to ask them for pay-slips and references from an employer and/or a previous landlord. And, naturally, have a tenancy agreement in place which spells out when the rent is due so that no misunderstandings can occur. You might also want to think about insurance cover, or even asking tenants to provide a (UK-based) guarantor to cover any unpaid rent.

Well decorated

Thinking about giving your home the 'wow factor' while wanting to keep decisively 'on trend'? Then you might want to consider the views of the UK's leading interior designers who (when asked by Direct Line) said that 2016 is going to be “the year of pattern, texture and colour in people's homes.” Design this year, they noted, is going to be all about “1960's and 70's inspired furniture, Ikat soft furnishings, eclectic wallpaper, dark lighting and hardwood floors.” Warm colours — gold, burnt orange and bronze — are going to be popular, too.

And the worst interior design ideas? Well, the same experts urge you not to live in “beige, boring, neutral homes” or have feature / accent walls or display any art deco style. Hmmm. Pass the paintbrush.

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