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Seller’s guide

As valuable capital assets, London propertyinvariably yields handsome rewards for the astute investor by providing vital building blocks for portfolio expansion and diversification. It is vital, therefore, to regard the selling of a home as a tactical business decision to be undertaken with the aim of reducing costs and increasing the return on investment. The difference between a moderately profitable transaction and a financial windfall is usually down to the timing and levels of preparation that you’re ready to undertake and it’s in these areas that the expertise and advice of an established estate agent becomes an essential resource.

Make a plan

There can be many reasons for selling and some are more time sensitive than others; acareer relocation, schools, new addition to the family or even a need or desire to free up capital. Even if there are no time pressures, it helps to set a schedule, so that all the different components of the sale fall into place. Set aside a period for research of, not only the local property market, but also prospective estate agents, conveyance experts and local tradespersons should you need them. Assess the costs involved as well as the time their services will require.

Choosing an agent

Estate agents who claim that they can sell your property quickly are not necessarily the right people for the job. Agents will be in regular contact with you through what is widely acknowledged to be a pretty intense and stressful period, so it is important you do your homework and choose your agent carefully. You can spot the good ones by their proven experience and willingness to be transparent. Some questions to ask are:

  • How long have you been handling property for sale in London
  • What Government recognised memberships are you part of for accountability
  • What areas of London do you cover and know well
  • What other properties like mine have you sold recently
  • Can you provide evidence of your service through client testimonials
Marketing your London property

Good agents should be able to market your property readily, as soon as you instruct them. Theyshould also take professional, high quality photographs that show your property in the best light possible, guaranteeing plenty of interest. They’ll also give you tips on getting the rooms ready. Benham and Reeves also provide a video and floorplan, not all agents do, so do ask them what is included, where and how they will be marketing your property to ensure it reaches the maximum audience.

Accurate valuation

Maintaining a careful balance between attracting buyers and maximising profits should start with aprofessional and accurate valuation of your property. This serves as a solid base for negotiation and will enable you to budget accurately as you decide how much to spend on getting the property ready for market.

Benham and Reeves offer a free online valuation that can be accessed via our website and this is a good place to start. As you research, you’ll soon recognise that the age, size and location of your home are major factors in any valuation calculation, as is the state of the economy and these are variables that are more or less out of your control. There are, however, some other things that can be done in order to give your property the best chance of attracting the full market price.

Of course, any potential buyer will also be carrying out a survey and that’s where things get a bit more detailed and it’s important to have most of these bases covered. These details are what potential buyers will be looking at:

  • Structural improvements
    Additional rooms like loft conversions or extra bathrooms give more space and usually add value.
  • Fittings
    Modern kitchens are a definite must.
  • Room layout
    Open-plan living has become a way of life in the UK allowing more light into the home and in keeping with contemporary lifestyle trendswhich focuses on the kitchen/dining space as the heart of the home.
  • Electrics/heating
    New property developments score heavily here with many home features such as climate control and underfloor heating technology. You may need to consider adding some features yourself to add value if practicable.
  • Double Glazing
    Essential for keeping those energybills in check but do ask your Estate Agent if glazing your property will add the selling value you are looking for.
  • Storage space
    Storage becomes extra important when the home has reached its limits in terms of size and floor area so creating a solution for storage might be helpful.
  • Wear and Tear
    Paintwork, flooring and kitchen units don’t last forever and heavily used areas invariably need constant care and attention so do look carefully at the state of yours and how this might impact offers from buyers.

It should be noted that once you have done your research, a formal valuation should be sought and this is best performed by a qualified agent who will need to visit your property to take a proper look at the size and condition. It is advisable to get the valuation in writing as you may need this if hoping to secure a mortgage loan in principle.Contact us if you would like to arrange a free, no obligation of your property.

Best home presentation

So you have a property with great potential, near to vital transport links and full of attractive features. How do you add further value?The nextthreepoints focus on cost-effective strategies that can be carried with minimal fuss and bother:

  • Declare war on clutter. Be ruthless about all those unused items that have been blocking doors and covering floors. Make use of dead space to create storage areas and maintain this discipline, even while you’re carrying out home improvements. In fact, decorating a home presents a golden opportunity for getting rid of any superfluous items.
  • All homes benefit from a lick of fresh paint, especially in communal areas. Keep it neutral and tasteful – this is not the time for experimentation. Leave space for the buyer’s imagination to take over as they step into the property.
  • Make sure doors close properly and that light switches work. These are things that viewers will pick up immediately and will attribute to sloppiness rather than just “wear and tear”.
Soft furnishings that have high appeal

Potential buyers looking for a home in London can be pretty much spoiled for choice, especially when they’re looking at a new build. So it’s wise to ensure you havethe competitive edge when selling as there are likely to be other apartments for sale particularly if it’s a large scale property development built over several phases. You don’t have to make major renovations to impress. A selection of stylish and tasteful soft furnishings can transform your property from “Next, please” to “Yes please!”

Some estate agents have close relationships with interior design and furnishings experts and will make helpful suggestions regarding your property. High quality furnishings, accessories and artwork don’t have to cost the earth and their knack of providing eye-catching focal points often prove invaluable.

Services such as:

  • Furnishing packages
    As these are pre-designed, they can be often be delivered and installed quickly and also be tailored to suit your property.
  • Homestaging
    This service takes a more in-depth approach, but is still relatively easy to do. It involves looking at not only furniture items, but lighting, decluttering solutions and colour schemes. We would generally recommend this for larger houses although it can be an effective option if a smaller property is sticking for whatever reason.
  • Window dressing
    More than just an afterthought, getting a designer window treatment will impress potential buyers before they step across the doorway.
  • Art
    The London cultural calendar is full of affordable art events and they’re all worth a visit. Track down a picture or sculpture that complements the décor of your property and lifts it out of the ordinary. Of course, you’ll be taking your art with you when you go, but try not to be too funky – they are primarily devices for selling your property.
Viewings

Once you have instructed an agent, every viewing of your property should be treated as a potential sale. Keep the property in tip-top condition and take notice of any feedback or suggestions that might come your way; either from the agent or a prospective buyer.

Some agents do not need you to be available for every viewing but in some instances, it can be helpful – be guided by your agent.

Legal matters

Don’t leave the choice of a conveyance solicitor to the last minute or to chance. Your estate agent will be able to point you to any number of experienced professionals who will be able to take on the legal heavy lifting that goes with selling a property.

Getting your property ready involves getting your paperwork ready as well. Good solicitors will have all documentation up to date and accessible before you accept any offer. They’ll then keep in touch with your agent as to the progress of the sale and have contracts ready to sign as soon as both parties are ready.

Before your property can be marketed, you will be required to complete a property information questionnaire. This will ask you to include relevant information relating to any issues you may have regarding your property boundaries or any dispute with neighbours; whether you have appropriate approvals for any building works or freeholder consent for things like loft conversions or extensions. You will also be asked to mention any known defects. It is recommended that you be as transparent as possible from the outset as answers that are vague or incomplete are most likely to come up during the conveyancing process which could delay things and cost you more money in the long run. It could also impact the outcome of your sale.

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Top 10 things to watch out for in London property in 2020

Landlords have faced some major issues over the last few years – new lettings regulations and property taxes as well as the impact of Brexit. And 2020 is likely to deliver more challenges, from a proposed increase in Stamp Duty for overseas buyers to changes to Capital Gains Tax. It’s certainly not an easy time to be a landlord but some preparation now should help keep things running smoothly in 2020. So if you’re a buy-to-let investor or are thinking about buying a rental property in London, take a look at our 12 top tips for what to look out for in 2020 – and how to prepare for them.

Lettings fees ban

Lettings agents in England and Wales are now banned from charging fees to tenants and in England deposits are capped at the equivalent of five weeks’ rent. The Tenant Fees Act aims to enable tenants to see exactly what fees will be involved when renting a new property, with no hidden costs, but it means landlords must now pay for services such as referencing and inventory checks. One way for landlords to reduce costs is to negotiate with current tenants to encourage them to renew their tenancy, rather than finding a new tenant when the lease ends. This has the double advantage of eliminating voids. Renewing an existing tenancy at only a slightly higher rent or even the same rent as before can give a higher yield than letting to a new tenant, even if they pay a higher rent. More information on the new fee structure can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/tenant-fees-act

Tax relief on mortgage interest completely phased out

The Government has been phasing out tax relief on mortgage interest since April 2017. By April 2020, landlords will no longer be able to deduct mortgage interest from rental income to reduce their tax bill but instead will receive a tax credit of 20% of their mortgage interest payments.There isn’t much landlords can do about this. One option is to incorporate/set up a business in which to own their properties but this could work out more expensive. This is a complex area so consult an accountant who can advise on the pros and cons.

Changes to Capital Gains Tax

From April 6th 2020, CGT incurred following the disposal of a residential property must be paid within 30 days of the completion date. At present, a taxpayer would report any capital gains on their self-assessment tax return, with the resulting tax to be paid by January 31st following the year in which the gain was made. Again, there is little a landlord can do about this – tax must be paid when it is due but do consult your accountant for further advice.

Electrical safety regulations

New regulations requiring landlords to carry out regular electrical safety checks are expected to be introduced in 2020. These will include compulsory five-year checks of electrical installations in rental properties. Make sure you have a trusted and reliable electrical contractor already lined up to carry out any work necessary before the regulations are introduced so that you do not risk breaking the rules and the resulting fine. If you use a professional property management agent, they will organise this for you. More information can be found  at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/housing-minister-tightens-up-rules-on-electrical-safety-to-better-protect-renters

Energy efficiency standards

From April 2018, the Government imposed new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) requiring rental properties to meet a minimum EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of ‘E’ or more for new lets and renewals of tenancies. A second deadline will be imposed from April 2020, meaning that a minimum ‘E’ rating will be necessary for all existing tenancies too. This means that landlords will no longer be able to continue to rent out a property with an EPC rating of less than ‘E’. Apartments in new residential buildings should already meet these requirements and you should have an EPC certificate to show this. If you own an older, period property, you may need to organise an energy assessor to carry this out.

Anti-money laundering checks

The new EU Directive on money laundering means that letting agents will have to carry out checks on landlords who earn more than 10,000 euros (approximately £8,900) a month – whether this comes from a single property or an entire portfolio. Professional lettings agents should already be preparing for this so make sure you use a reputable agent who will carry this task out for you.

Proposed new regulations for lettings agents

The Government is expected to announce plans for increasing regulation of the lettings industry. This includes a new licensing regime, a Code of Practice and training requirements for lettings agents. In our opinion, this is good news and will help to eliminate the less professional element of the industry. In the meantime, make sure you use a letting agent who belongs to ARLA Propertymark.

Letting to tenants with pets

The Government is revising its Model Tenancy Agreements (which are encouraged for use throughout England but not mandatory), to encourage more landlords to accept tenants with well-behaved pets. The Tenant Fees Act means that landlords can no longer take a higher deposit from tenants with pets but many are instead setting the rent a little higher to take into account any additional wear and tear. We have always encouraged landlords to consider renting to tenants with pets. Most are very responsible and we rarely have any problems. With so many tenants owning pets this opens up the landlord’s potential market for their property considerably.

Proposed Stamp Duty surcharge for overseas buyers

The Government has proposed a 3% Stamp Duty surcharge for non-UK residents who wish to buy UK property. No timescale has yet been set for this. If you are planning to buy a London (or UK) property in the next few months, we would suggest doing your research now and making your purchase as soon as you are able in order to ensure the transaction is completed before any new surcharge is introduced.

Buy-to-let mortgage rates at an all-time low

Buy-to-let mortgage rates remain historically very low and with the current competitive loans market, buy-to-let rates are now nearly as low as residential mortgage rates. Leveraged deals are very popular with overseas investors, who are benefiting from extremely competitive interest rates. Compare current interest rates. If you took out a buy-to-let mortgage several years ago you may find that you can now save money by remortgaging, either with your current lender or by moving to a new lender.
Sterling has had a volatile few years since the Brexit vote and overseas investors have been able to benefit from the weakness of the currency. However, the recent Conservative election win and more certainty on the outcome of Brexit means that Sterling has now started to strengthen a little. If you are an overseas investor planning to buy a property in London in the near future, consider doing so sooner rather than later as, if Sterling continues to strengthen, you could find that the property costs you more comparatively due to the less favourable exchange rate. Generally, we are more optimistic about the London property market as we move into 2020, but of course, there are plenty of challenges for landlords to face. We aim to keep you updated with all the latest news so sign up today to regularly receive our blogs.

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