Hunters Newsletter February 2014

Thinking of moving in 2014?

Every month, we bring you updates and comments on the property market; tips and ideas for selling, letting, buying or renting and news from our growing network of branches throughout the country.

Also this month, don't miss our ideas for creating a romantic mood in your home this Valentine's Day.

Enjoy the read!
Hunters Marketing

How to achieve the best price for your property

Our Sales Director and Survey Team have given us 10 tips for achieving the best possible price for your home; from a lick of paint, to de-cluttering, each of these ideas could help you to sell your property, and without having to spend a small fortune in the process.

1. First impressions really are essential. If you have a garden, ensure that the gate opens easily, any hedges and lawns are cut and the garden beds are weeded (flowers in bloom, or in winter evergreens are a plus). The driveway should have a good covering of gravel or should be well pointed with no loose flags. Don’t forget that rear garden either; any washing lines, lawn mowers or children’s toys should be put away, and fences need to be in good repair.

2. Give any external doors and paintwork a good clean, if the paint needs touching up, take care to do the best job you can.

3. Some buyers will forgive you for an untidy garden and exterior paintwork, but a good first impression is an absolute must when entering your house. You might want to have the carpets in your hallway and staircases shampooed, or if they’re in dire need, replace them with a new, neutral, carpet.

4. A warm reception. If you’re selling your house in winter, make sure you put the heating on prior to a viewing. If the property is empty then it is worth popping round before any viewings to do the same. At the same time it’s worth making sure any gas fires and central heating systems have been serviced in the last 12 months by a Gas Safe Registered Heating Engineer.

5. De-clutter and tidy. Nothing will distract buyers from your property more than clutter. Clear work surfaces, floors, desks and table tops and where you have lots of trinkets, pack them away. As an extra, give your cushions a good fluff.

6. A light and bright home can really lift a viewer’s mood; make sure you draw back curtains fully and replace any light bulbs that may have blown.

7. Make your home smell good. The old trick of putting on a pot of coffee or baking some bread, does work, and makes your house smell like a true home. At a minimum, make sure there are no pet smells or cooking odours; use a good air freshener and open windows prior to a viewing.

8. A clean sweep! Our last and, possibly the most important, tip for viewings; make sure your house is clean. Pay particular attention to bathrooms and kitchens, replacing any strained grouting, and cleaning sinks, baths, showers, toilets and cookers. People will always look at these areas.

Of course, in addition to presentation, choosing the right agent and marketing for your property is important too.

9. Ensure you choose an agent who offers accompanied viewings, which will be carried out by a trained sales person and viewer. The NAEA tell us that you are twice as likely to get an offer if the agent accompanies the viewing.

10. Interest in your property is at its peak in the first 2-3 weeks of marketing. To maximise interest ensure that the initial photographs and description of your property present it in the best light. Recent studies tell us that 66% of buyers have made up their mind about a property before they have arranged a viewing.

Have these tips already worked for you? Or do you have any more tips and ideas? We'd love to hear from you. Contact with your stories.

January sees fastest annual price increases since 2010

According to research undertaken by Nationwide, UK house prices have risen by 0.7% this month and were 8.8% higher than they were back in January 2013.

This figure represents the fastest year on year increase in house prices since May 2010, with the average UK house now priced at &176,491. Robert Gardner, Chief Economist at Nationwide, said:

"The housing market is continuing to gather momentum on the back of further solid gains in employment, record low mortgage rates and rising confidence."

After a lot of talk around the housing market, Nationwide has taken the step to be the first to deliver a solid prediction on the situation for 2014, before detailed surveys are released in the coming weeks.

Government schemes such as Help to Buy have encouraged first time buyers, and there was a good increase in those buying their first home in 2013, thanks to cheaper rates and high LTV loans. Back in 2007, mortgage repayments for first time buyers rose to as high as 51.8% of their take-home pay. This figure, however, was consistently lower at just 33% for the first three quarters of 2013.

This data shows that despite the withdrawal of the Bank of England's mortgage support scheme, the demand for homes in the UK is still strong. Funding for Lending has resulted in a price war when it comes to mortgage rates, meaning that those buying a home with just a 10% mortgage are also seeing lower mortgage repayments.

Property site Rightmove found that interest in properties is currently at a record high and the number of property pages viewed on their site increased by 20% in the first two weeks of 2014 in comparison to the previous year. They also reported receiving over 1.75 million enquiries from home-movers in that short space of time.

Howard Archer, Chief UK Economist at IHS Global Insight, has said of the current situation:

"With the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme only just starting to kick in and interest rates likely to stay extremely low for some time to come, there is still substantial support to the housing market even in the absence of any further support from the FLS".

The Help to Buy scheme started back in April 2013, with the government offering a 20% equity loan to people looking to buy new builds. In the first nine months 12,875 properties were bought with help from the scheme, with the biggest uptake being seen in cities such as Leeds, Milton Keynes and Manchester.

Auctions storm ahead with sales

Following a very successful 2013, the Auctions Team are enjoying a busy and exciting start to the year, preparing for their first auction on 26th February and launching their new website.

Last year was phenomenal with the team converting 85% of auction sales, with many properties achieving higher prices than expected. And they are gearing up for an even better year this year with the market showing even more improvement.

"Our dedicated auction team are currently advising homeowners across the country about the option of auctioning their property. More and more people are putting their properties forward to Auctions  and  we are seeing some excellent results", says Gemma Jacques.

Auction works very well for properties that would struggle to attain a mortgage due to structural defects or where a sale has fallen through. The team have also successfully sold tenanted properties, various commercial buildings and land both with or without planning permission. 

The timescale of auction sales  is pre-determined and  quick so all parties involved know exactly where they stand, whether they are the seller or the buyer. "We market properties intensely for 4-5 weeks, exchange contracts on the night of the auction (receiving a 10% deposit); with completion taking place 28 days later. This means there are no fall-throughs and customers can plan ahead", adds Gemma.

A quick sale does not however mean a reduced price - Hunters Auctions achieves the best prices for properties through rigorous and pro-active marketing. It is a simple method - the more buyers you have interested, the more people you will attract to the auction and therefore the highest possible price will be achieved.

The team work very closely with our network of Hunters branches across the country, utilising their local knowledge and expertise to achieve the best possible result. They are also prepared to work with other agents to achieve a sale, which they have done successfully many times before.

Placing the property into auction gives as many buyers as possible the opportunity to ‘fight’ over the property with a sense of urgency. With no fall-throughs buyers realise that once it’s gone, it’s gone!

Visit for details of  auction dates and properties included in Hunters next auction, 26th February at York Racecourse, bidding starts at 6pm. You will find a great mixture of residential and commercial property available from many different areas including Whitby, Leeds, Richmond, Stockton-on-Tees, Selby, York, Thirsk and Boroughbridge.  

The team are also taking entries for the auction on 16th April. All sold properties in this auction would complete by mid-May, in time for the summer. Keep an eye on the website for all up and coming property details. You can also request a catalogue and read our handy guides to buying and selling at auction.

Letting your property quickly and hassle free

Before inviting prospective tenants for a viewing, here are some handy tips from our experienced Lettings team to help make the property as appealing as possible and ensure a quick let:

1) Create a good impression inside and out. Inside, make sure the property is clean and well finished with neutral décor creating a welcoming feel and appeal to a wide market. On the outside, remove rubbish, cut the lawn and pull out weeds and spruce up the paintwork.

2) No cream carpets/sofas – darker colours will keep their appeal for longer.

3) Ensure no personal items are on display – the tenant wants to feel at home straight away, so a blank canvas is ideal.

4) Allow the tenant room for their own belongings – they want to imagine their own belongings in the property so creating space is a must.

5) Put up “picture hooks” for tenants use – avoiding unnecessary extra holes in the walls!

6) Ensure good up keep of your property and keep it well maintained – this will encourage tenants to look after it too and encourage them to stay longer.

7) Keep the property warm – this can be through use of lighting and ensuring the heating is on when the property is vacant.

8) Basic furnishings, for example 4 set of pans/crockery etc. if furnished – this avoids clutter and will be easier to keep track of in your inventory.

9) Set the correct price for the property. Be realistic about what tenants will be prepared to pay in your area - talk it through with your agent if you are not sure. help everyone and keep things hassle free:

10) Leave Instruction Books and Manuals handy for appliances and heating/water systems.

Longer term tenancies announced in the Tenants Charter

Published in October by the Community Secretary, Eric Pickles. They are proposing a model tenancy agreement, to ensure families can benefit from longer tenancies, without changing the existing legal framework for the rental market. 

The Government believes that “Longer tenancies will give families greater certainty and security, especially for those with children at school. This will reduce costs for both tenants and landlords who will not have to pay letting agents to arrange frequent contract renewals. Tenants will be able to access better information so they know the types of tenancies they can request.”

The average length of stay has increased over the last 5 years from 16.7 months to nearly 20 months, according to regular ARLA survey figures. Throughout the length of tenancy there will always be a risk of tenants defaulting on the rent perhaps through loss of job, relationship breakdown or general change in financial circumstances. To protect against this and save on constant headaches of 6 monthly or annual policy renewals, the Government will encourage mortgage lenders to follow the recent change in policy by  Nationwide Building Society, so that buy-to-let borrowers can offer longer initial fixed periods in their tenancy agreements. 

The new model tenancy agreement will not require a single tenancy agreement to be used. However, there is a consensus among landlord and tenant groups that a better understanding is needed on a number of issues, in addition to encouraging longer tenancies and rental certainty, for both landlords and tenants when they enter into agreement.

Both the Residential Landlords Association and Shelter have developed models to encourage longer tenancies but within the existing legal framework.

Any model for longer fixed-term tenancies should highlight that:

• tenants can request a longer tenancy which enables greater stability, where both parties agree, while maintaining the flexibility within the private rented sector that many tenants value
• rent review clauses, which are index linked to inflation, will provide both landlords and tenants with greater financial certainty to plan over a longer period

The additional advantages to landlords in entering longer fixed-term tenancies include:

• avoiding potential periods of vacancy between tenants
• reducing the costs of having to find new tenants on a regular basis
• encouraging tenants who live in properties for longer to take greater care of the property
• break clauses in any model tenancy agreement, so that landlords and tenants will be able to end the tenancy early, for example if the landlord wishes to sell the property
• Government expectations that any model tenancy agreement should provide an initial probation period for both parties to ensure they are content to enter into a longer agreement with each other (as put forward by the Residential Landlords Association).”

To read the full press release and further details about “Better tenancies for families in rental homes” click here.

Hunters launches in Stoke-on-Trent

Hunters, the UK’s fastest growing independent estate agency group, has expanded its reach in the Midlands by opening a new office in Stoke-on-Trent. Comprised of five towns, Hanley, Stoke, Burslem, Fenton and Longton, Stoke-on-Trent’s great rail and road links to Manchester, Birmingham and Derby, make it a popular area for commuters, as well as families looking to settle on the city’s outskirts.

Andy Bushell, Sales Director at Hunters Property Group, said: “Since 1992, we have grown rapidly, both organically and through acquisitions, to become the UK’s fastest-growing independent estate agency network with over 100 branches nationwide. To widen our horizons in this area is extremely exciting and we plan to continue looking for new franchise opportunities as we broaden our reach across the country over the next few years.”

Daniel and Kerry Smart, the new franchisees of Hunters Stoke-on-Trent, founded the successful Cherry Tree Lettings Agency in 2006, a specialist rental agency which managed a portfolio of over 200 properties in the local area. In taking the opportunity to join the Hunters Network, they and their team now offer a full sales and lettings service with the same enthusiasm and service levels, and combining existing skills and local knowledge with the Hunters brand.

Daniel Smart comments; “Our focus has always been on delivering exceptional service to all of our clients, whilst maintaining a personal family run touch. Since 2006, we have fostered close working relationships with landlords, many of whose properties we are still managing.  In joining the Hunters network, we are looking forward to expanding our services to include sales, and with the support that Hunters are able provide in key areas of marketing, technology, training and communication, we hope to see our well-established team go from strength to strength. Covering all five towns that make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent, we cater for clients at all stages of the property ladder.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about the services that Hunters Estate Agents Stoke-on-Trent has to offer, call the team on 01782 626 522 or visit the branch at 439 Hart Shill Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST4 6AB.

Staircase Envy : 5 of the most creative, interesting interior stairways

Spiral Staircase by Patrick Joiun (see featured picture)

Inspired by natural forms, this spiral staircase by Patrick Joiun is especially unusual as it lacks a central column. Instead, support is created by a metal pole that also takes on a spiral shape. Even though the steps are made from a warmly-coloured hardwood with a good deal of presence, the open nature of this staircase’s design helps to retain the light nature of the glass-walled space it inhabits.

Trippy Stairs by Atmos Studios (click here to see image)

This bespoke staircase design sits somewhere between art deco and psychedelia. The fluid build offers no clear boundary between staircase, wall, and floor, and its sinuous wooden tendrils extend into the interior space. A small bathroom makes excellent use of the area under the stairs, benefiting from a ceiling that reflects the steps’ unusual shapes.

For more inspiring staircases, visit the Hunters News Hub

Is love in the air where you live?

Is it the location, breath-taking views, elegant décor, landscaped gardens, spiral staircases or cosy fireplaces?

Perhaps where you live has a romantic name? We have been looking at Britain’s most romantic place names; some of our favourites are Truelove in Devon, Heart’s Delight in Kent, Cupid’s Hill in Gwent, Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries and Lovesome Hill, North Riding in Yorkshire. Do you know of any others? Let us know!

Everyone has their own ideas and tastes but if you are looking for ways to set the scene for a romantic night in then why not try our quick, cost effective tips? Create the perfect mood with soft lighting, fairy lights or group candles together to give a romantic look to the room.  Flower displays and soft furnishings made from faux fur, velvet and velour add a comfortable romantic feel.

If you want to go all out and add a permanent romantic feel to a room, why not be inspired by vintage florals, farm house trends, adding antique furniture pieces and a dimmer switch to the lightning. Complement pastel colours with curtains, furniture and wall colour and place mirrors to reflect the softened light. All you need now is romantic music and a glass of your favourite tipple!