de clutter

 It sounds as though you need to de-clutter, and there are two main reasons for this – firstly, to make your home as tidy and presentable as possible for photography and viewings and secondly, so your actual move is both less costly and less stressful!
 
First impressions really do count so creating a neat and tidy home without clutter is one of the quickest and most effective ways of making a positive impact on the way your home looks and feels to prospective buyers. And whether you’ll be employing the services of a removals firm or hiring a van and moving yourself, the process will cost less and take less time and effort if you have fewer belongings.
 
Sorting through and getting rid of stuff takes a while so start in the primary rooms and remember the term ‘use it, love it or bin it’. Try to be ruthless - items you’ve accumulated that either no longer relate to your present lifestyle or your future aspirations, or hold no sentimental value need getting rid of - clothes that no longer fit, books you’ve already read, kitchen gadgets you have never used, etc - and moving home provides the perfect opportunity to have a really good clear-out. 

All too often, our idea of having a good tidy up simply means putting stuff out of sight – in the loft, the under stairs cupboard or the garden shed for example, and that’s really just shifting the problem. Remember, serious buyers are going to want to look in cupboards and the last thing you want is a load of stuff falling out on them! 

Nowadays, the tip isn’t the only place for unwanted items – let’s face it, if you were holding onto this stuff it’s obviously got life left in it, so try holding a stall at your local car boot sale or selling things online on sites such as ebay, Preloved and Gumtree. If you use Facebook, search for a local ‘Bargains’ page where people buy and sell things. Other options include giving certain items to friends or family members who will make use of them, and of course charity donations. 

In practice, removing clutter and not allowing it to build up again is really nothing more than learning a new habit - it is even claimed that de-cluttering is good for the psyche. You may well make a tidy sum from your so-called ‘clutter’. Having done it, many say they wonder why they ever hung on to so much stuff in the first place!

Autumn Property Maintenance Checklist

With temperatures dropping further with every passing day, this is the time to check that your property is ready for the onset of autumn and the impending arrival of winter. 

  1. Heating 

Everyone’s immediate priority for as far as autumn and winter property maintenance should be their heating system. Don’t wait until it’s needed - test it now to get a jump on any repairs it might require before the cold weather hits. 

  • Check the boiler to make sure it lights properly and isn’t leaking carbon monoxide
  • Schedule a gas safety inspection to ensure the whole system is working properly
  • Check the radiators to ensure they turn on and off and radiate heat effectively
  • Clean fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and chimneys in preparation for use
  • If you have a feed and expansion tank in the loft, check it’s working by moving the float arm up and down to see that the valve lets in water 
  1. Insulation 

Your second priority should be insulation - there’s no point ensuring the heating system works if the heat escapes immediately. 

  • Ensure that the loft has insulation to a thickness of at least 270mm
  • Insulate areas that could allow draughts in, such as around doors, in loft space and between floorboards
  • Replace draught-proof covers around the front door letterbox and keyhole if necessary
  • Repair door and window-frames that are damaged 
  1. Gardens 

The front and back gardens shouldn’t be neglected, even though the cold temperatures will restrict the growth of plants and shrubs. 

  • Trim bushes
  • Prune trees
  • Plant shrubs and trees (winter is a good time for them to grow and establish roots)
  • Rake fallen leaves from your lawn to prevent the grass dying
  • Stow lawn equipment and summer activity equipment inside or in a garden shed for the winter
  1. Exteriors 

The exteriors of the property are its first line of defence against the cold and bad weather. It’s therefore vital to ensure that they are all as robust as possible before winter sets in. 

  • Check for peeling paint - this may mean moisture is making the home’s surface swell
  • Check the roof (or get someone else to do it) to find and replace missing or loose shingles
  • Look for siding that may be damaged or coming off
  • Ensure that any exterior pipes are still securely fastened to the wall
  • Ensure all gutters are cleared of dead leaves
  • Power wash your siding and windows
  • Check the driveway for cracks or uneven ground that frost could exacerbate
  • Ensure that any exterior lights all work
  • Treat outside timber such as fences, decks and sheds to ensure it remains robust
  • Make sure that vents are not obstructed 
  1. Plumbing 

As the water circulating through the plumbing system gets colder, it can freeze inside the pipes, which naturally causes a lot of issues. 

  • Ensure pipes, especially in the loft, are insulated to prevent freezing
  • Ensure pipes are not blocked at any point
  • Check that stopcocks are working so the water supply can be turned off if required

 Searches are an integral and extremely important part of the conveyancing process. Basically, they comprise a series of checks made by the buyer’s solicitor to ensure that everything about the property is as it should be. 

Broadly speaking, searches fall into 3 main categories:

  1. Local searches. These are commissioned from the local authority and are concerned with things like planning issues and major changes to the infrastructure of the area.
  2. Specialised and environmental searches. These often tend to be more important in particular parts of the country – for example, in areas liable to flooding, or where there are old mine workings.
  3. Land Registry searches. These not only provide all the necessary ownership information about a property, but also reveal whether there are any debts outstanding on it or anything else of concern. 

Solicitors will normally handle these enquiries directly, except in the case of local searches, where they may employ the services of a specialist personal search company. 

Generally speaking, searches have to be paid for upfront as they are an expense. If the sale falls through for any reason, the buyer will still have to reimburse the solicitor for this outlay – even where the actual conveyancing work is offered on a ‘no sale-no fee’ basis. 

As for delays, these can occur for any number of reasons. For example, even in this day and age, local authority searches can’t be conducted at the click of a mouse. They require the attention of council staff so at any given time, some local authorities may simply be too short-staffed to handle search enquiries quickly - as a result, local search times can vary enormously from one area to another, from less than a week to well over a month. With some solicitors, it is also general practice to hold off commissioning searches until their client has received a firm mortgage offer – just in case the whole deal falls at the first hurdle. 

So, if you want to minimise the risk of any delay, get your mortgage offer sorted out as soon as possible and instruct your solicitor to order the searches right away.

testing the market

Firstly, your home is not necessarily worth what you think it is. The truth is that every property is worth precisely what a serious buyer is prepared to pay for it and that’s why pricing is the most difficult part of the whole selling process to get right. 

Now, of course we all want to get the best possible price for our homes so it’s always tempting to err on the optimistic side. After all, years ago, it wasn’t unknown for property to sell for substantially more than its original valuation. However, those days are gone and going to market at an inflated price is not a good idea – particularly now, given that there are fewer buyers than then and those that are in the market are understandably price conscious. 

In the current climate, it’s not even worth taking a punt, just in case there’s someone out there who’s prepared to pay a bit over the odds for his or her dream home. By doing so, you could actually be spoiling your best chance of getting a sale – and that’s certainly not something you want to risk doing in today’s market. Statistics show that properties invariably attract the most viewings during their first few weeks on the market and that’s also generally the time when the best offers are made. Thereafter, buyer interest declines. Even when prices are later reduced, it can be difficult to persuade buyers to reconsider a property they have already rejected. 

You might like to consider asking your agent about marketing your home on the basis of ‘offers in excess of…’, which is a bit like setting a reserve price at auction and if pitched at the right level, it could generate extra buyer interest. But take the advice of your agent – after all, they’re the ones with market experience.

For an in-depth look at the 3 common pests that occupy the interior, exterior and interior/exterior areas of properties, read our identification guide below:

Interior

There are several pests that take up residence within our properties. The most common have been listed and detailed below:

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are one of the most disruptive pests in the home and neglecting to eliminate them can cause serious discomfort and hygiene issues. Bed bugs commonly infest beds, sofas, carpets and curtains. They're an incredibly small pest, which makes them hard to identify. However, they do leave notable trails behind, making identifying them easier. They leave smear marks and old skin shells in and around the places they inhabit.

Bed bugs can be removed effectively in proper pest control measures are employed. If you do discover a bed bug infestation, notify your landlord or estate agent immediately.

Cockroaches

Notoriously known as one of the worst pests to have. Cockroaches are tough to eliminate due to their hard shells and ability to withstand most harmful pest chemicals. Cockroaches can also survive on any food and can survive months without food.

They can be identified by their oval shape, their 3-inch-long bodies and their orange/brown colouring. Many species have wings, however some cannot fly. They can next anywhere in the house, but be sure to look behind cupboards, around skirting boards and in any cracks or gaps in the wall.

Mice

While they can be found outside, mice enjoy warmth and food, which usually leads them into houses. Mice are known for hiding in crevices, under floorboards and generally dark places, out of immediate sight. While they don’t cause us any immediate harm, they breed exceptionally quickly, and this can become a hygiene problem.

Mice can be identified by their small brown/grey bodies, with an average size of 3-8cm. While it’s rare to spot a mouse out in the open of your home, there are notable signs to look out for, such as their droppings. Mice droppings are usually grouped, and they commonly dig up carpet to use in their nests.

Exterior

Pests infiltrating the exterior of your property can cause just as much damage as those that reside within. Pests such as rats, birds and wasps can cause severe harm to the structure of your property and need to be dealt with swiftly.

Birds

Birds can become a nuisance if they’re not dealt with immediately. Once birds find a place to nest, it can become difficult to relocate them, especially if they’re pigeons. Birds cause disruptions by nesting in exterior structures such as gutters, piping and roofing.

Identifying birds is fairly simple, as they’re not exactly discrete. Aside from their squawking, the bigger issue is their droppings, particularly pigeon droppings, as they’re incredibly acidic and notoriously difficult to clean from certain surfaces. If the droppings are left to fester, they will permanently damage the surface, and this is especially harmful to cars and other expensive belongings.

Wasps

Wasps are, for the most part, helpful. However, no one likes wasps because they disrupt our summers and fly into our drinks, but this isn’t the biggest issue they cause. Wasps nests can become very dangerous if they’re left to develop and identifying them early is essential. Fortunately, they’re quite noticeable by their distinct structure and that buzzing sound. They’re usually spotted underneath gutters, cracks within exterior walls, sheds and other crevices high up. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to find them in trees, if the tree is big enough.

Either way wasp nests are very dangerous, and it’s strongly advised you contact your landlord, estate agent or pest control company to safely remove the nest.

Foxes

In most cases, foxes don’t disrupt people because they prefer to nest away from us. However, foxes occasionally raise their young in our gardens and they can become an issue for us. The biggest problem they cause is tearing apart our bins and disrupting our gardens and wildlife. Identifying them is simple enough but as they only really come out at night, its rare you will spot one in the day. You'll be able to tell if you have a fox if your bins are regularly opened and shredded. If your fox problem is becoming severe, ensure your bins are sealed shut and call a pest control professional if they continue to reside within your premises.

Interior and Exterior

There are some pests that dominate both the interior and exterior of properties.

Rats

Arguably the most common pest, rats are unsightly and can cause severe damage to your property if left untreated. Not only do they breed rapidly, they’re carriers of disease, meaning they present a serious health and safety issue.

Rats, in a similar vein to mice, prefer to keep a low profile, hiding in crevices, under floorboards and in gardens. They can, however, be identified by their droppings they leave behind. Rat droppings are not grouped like mice, as they defecate on the move. Be on the lookout for gnaw marks and chewed furniture as their teeth continue to grow and they will grind them down biting on things.

Ants

Ants are known to be pests that occupy both the interior and exterior of our properties. Ants on their own aren’t particularly harmful, but in numbers, they can cause hygiene issues, as well as structural damage.

Ants living outside of the property can nest in cracks in the wall, leading to structural damage and eventually, infiltration into the property. These nests are tough to remove and require trained professionals if the nest is too big for filler to cover it. once ants are inside, they’ll be looking for food, so ensure everything is sealed tight and call a pest control professional to assess the situation if it’s serious.

Woodlice

Again, not a particularly harmful pest on their own, but in numbers, they can cause structural damage. Woodlice love damp places, particularly woody areas. They aren’t known for residing in the interiors of properties, but if they are found inside, it’s usually a sign of damp within the property. They can also be found within exterior walls, which can lead them inside the property if nothing is done.

They can be identified by their small, grey oval shaped forms, being about 1cm long and they usually travel in large groups.

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If you do notice any signs of pest within your property, it’s very important to contact your landlord or estate agent so they can contact the relevant pest professionals. Pest control is seriously important when it comes to home ownership, as they can causes thousands of pounds worth of damage if they are left neglected. Hopefully this identification guide will help you stay on the lookout for any notable pest signs, so you can keep your property safe from harm all year round.

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