Downing Street
Summer is coming, so it’s time to head to the polling station: hurrah! It’s our third opportunity in three years to have a real say in the future of our nation – how lucky we are.

This time, though, it’s different. While it’ll doubtless be as exciting as every other election campaign with all the political parties offering us free cake if we vote for them, there is one issue that 2017’s election will most certainly not be about: property.

Normal procedure upon the calling of a General Election is for instant panic to set in around the property market, driven by newspaper scaremongering and the uncertainty of who may come to power. Well, whether or not you’re a fan of the current Government, there seems to be little doubt over who’ll be first past the post on June 8th.

In theory, that would signal a gold rush. For as long as we can remember, the story around property and politics has effectively been Conservative good, Labour bad. If you’re at all commercially minded or have aspirations in the property area – whether as landlord or homeowner – then the Conservative party will look after you and Labour will not.

Today, that story looks somewhat different.

Thousands of landlords have been thrust into a higher tax bracket this month by no longer being allowed to claim mortgage interest payments as an expense. That has shed doubt on whether many may continue as landlords, shedding further doubt on whether their tenants will keep their homes.

Homeowners, too, have felt the impact of considerable changes to the Stamp Duty system which have slaughtered the top end of the market: many people have chosen to stay put, heavily reducing the number of transactions (along with the income to the Treasury) and further restricting the supply chain causing yet more affordability problems. If you do move, spending £2million in London – not a lot these days – means getting a Stamp Duty bill not far off the cost of buying a one bedroom flat.

So the old accepted tale of Blue vs Red is, for this General Election as least, obsolete: if you want to buy a home or be a landlord, politics is no longer a factor. And perhaps, as a general state of affairs, that’s a good thing. Why take a deep intake of breath and wait it out, when the supposed benefit of one party over the other has disappeared?

So while we can look forward to a campaign centred on Brexit, nuclear button pushing and media headlines of “Who do you want? Countess Dracula, or Chairman Mau?”, we can at least rest easy in the knowledge that nobody is going to do anything for the property market.

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Colina-House-before-and-after-LOW-RES
Under usual circumstances, whenever we get to market a property again after selling it first time round, while the place might look different through its furnishings and accessories, the overall change is, on the whole, fairly slight. So it’s a real pleasure to get to see a major transformation of a space that really hits all the right notes.

When we sold this 1,700ft2 warehouse conversion (and former Majestic Wine store) back in the 1990s, the sell was the rough-n-ready nature of the interior that dated back to its original conversion. While hardly fitted out to its full potential, it was a truly authentic space. So we’ll admit to a certain level of apprehension on hearing of the subsequent refurbishment.

(As loft living has moved into the mainstream, we’ve noticed a tendency to over-glamorise the apartments to a somewhat unnecessary level, seemingly inspired by business hotels in Asia. Essentially stripped of their essence and given the air of a new build in Knightsbridge, we’ve been left wondering why some people buy a loft in the first place. If you want a new build, buy a new build – please.)

However, any concerns we had on that front drifted swiftly away as we stepped over the threshold at Colina House, tucked away in Haringey. What we were presented with was a thoroughly appropriate and beautiful reimagining of the interior that honours all the good lofty bits while delivering a 21st century specification where it’s needed.

Let’s be honest, if you’re going to spend a million, you want a decent kitchen and bathroom. That doesn’t mean you want gold taps and Egyptian styling, but you do want comfort, convenience and quality. In fact you want that throughout your home, but not at the expense of everything else.

We think the owners have achieved a beautiful balance here, combining high quality materials with the original aesthetic. The combination of woodblock and marble worktops is a perfect example, introducing a lavish flourish afforded by marble without getting carried away.

Elsewhere, the (mostly) bright white paint job –including the splendid rafters in the arching roof void– gives the interior a fresh breeziness, and the use of engineered walnut planks has delivered a sleek richness that flows through the apartment in a nod to the original timber floors.

In short, this is how it should be done!

The apartment is for sale at £1.1million and you can read full details here.

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Hiding things
Most people wait until the run up to moving day to start clearing out the belongings they don’t want to take to their new home. It’s our view that that process should begin the minute you think about putting your property on the market. Tidying up is usually the garnish word for “moving things around” or “putting things in piles” or “hiding things” which doesn’t really constitute tidying up at all, and isn’t particularly attractive. So here are some tips from us on how to do it right.

Get rid of your piles
Mountains of files, magazines, unopened post and household paperwork – no matter how neatly piled on top of each other – do not constitute tidying up: they need to go. Our experience is that most things in piles hang around for months or years, meaning they’re effectively obsolete. Just get rid of the lot in one go. Anything that really was that urgent will very likely come through the letterbox again. Just make sure to deal with it properly next time to avoid future pileups.

Stay out of sight
As well as making sure you’re not at home whenever your estate agent brings someone round to see your home, it’s also a good idea to remove any excess of ornamentation from the property. That doesn’t mean removing all personality from your home, but too many nick-nacks are overwhelming for buyers and are utter dust traps. If you have countless pictures of yourself grinning from out of frames dotted around shelves, fireplaces, bedside tables, sideboards, etc. then we’d recommend a purge: they draw buyers’ attention away from your property.

Clean up your act
While your home is on the market, we strongly advise having it professionally cleaned every week. It really is a very sound investment. Unless you’re super human or super interested in domestic chores, we find that cleaners do a better job of making everything sparkle. They also tend not to miss the things we do our best to forget – dusting bookshelves, vacuuming behind the TV, etc. And get them to clean your windows at the start and then monthly thereafter – it really does make a huge difference.

Take away temptation
The easiest way of staying tidy is to have less stuff to tidy up. So rather than stuffing your cupboards with stuff, get rid of it. All the advice on de-cluttering and de-personalising makes the day-to-day job of keeping your home tidy much easier. The less you have, the less there is to tidy and the less mess you can make. Which means less work whenever you get a viewing.

Get over it
All this advice is simply to give you the best chance of getting your property sold. Don’t take it to heart when you’re asked to remove some personal items. The job of your estate agent is multi-faceted and includes giving you the best advice they can on how to present your home to maximum effect, minimise wasted viewings and achieve the best possible price in the shortest possible time.

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Carefree-drive-low-res
Although there are very few property sales that go through with absolutely no issues at all, and only a small minority that turn into mini-nightmares, in almost every instance the problems that arise are ones that could have been dealt with long before a sale had even been agreed.

The majority of problems that do arise fall into three main categories: legal, structural, and value. So here’s a list of checkpoints that you can undertake to pre-empt the vast majority of problems that could arise.

Get your house in order
First things first: if there are any obvious minor repairs that need doing, do them. Don’t leave it to your buyer’s surveyor to encounter them and then either down-value your property or request further reports from building specialists over the seriousness and cost. It all wastes valuable time and some sellers have lost their buyer over trifling issues that needn’t have come up in the first place, and where the buyer hears alarm bells and doesn’t want to investigate further. Don’t leave anything to chance. And once your property is on the market, make sure it always looks perfect for viewings

Shore up your defences
Having your own structural survey and professional valuation carried out to highlight any potential problem areas that may not be visible to you is well worth considering. As agents, we are here to get you the highest possible price and, particularly for unique properties, often think it’s worth pushing the price a little to see what interest can arise. But we think it would be extremely useful for you to seek a point of view that comes from the “devil’s advocate” side of things, and to see if there is too high a discrepancy between the figures you are quoted from agents, and the figure a chartered surveyor comes up with. You can also use this report to immediately challenge any issues raised by your buyer after their survey. Knowledge and information is power.

Sort out your paperwork
Title deeds and property information forms. You can save precious weeks by getting these in order when you first put your property on the market. Instruct a solicitor or conveyancer and get them to send you the forms you need to fill out that declare, among other things, what fixtures and fittings you are including with your property sale. If you have your property deeds yourself, give them to your solicitor. And if you have a mortgage, get your solicitor to request the deeds from your mortgage company; normally they take a few weeks, so it’s very wise to get onto this as early as you can. And finally, if you live in a leasehold property, inform your managing agent or freeholder that you are selling and find out if they require a fee to answer management enquiries. And ask them to respond promptly to any questions raised and provide buildings insurance and confirmation of accounts.

Of course there are things outside your control that may go wrong, perhaps up or down the chain if there is one. But most issues we encounter are not chain-related and are eminently sortable long before they arise.

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maldives-1532020_1280-LOW-RES
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, people hunted for a home very differently. While their choice would certainly centre around their core criteria (number of rooms, overall size, access to work or schools, etc), the final decision would ultimately come down to a single defining question: do I like it?

Yes, we know it sounds crazy, but it really used to happen. People would actually base their decision to buy a property on whether or not they got a good feeling from it, and whether they thought they’d like to live there. At dinner parties everywhere, people would say: “It just felt right” and “We knew we wanted it the moment we walked in the door”. Madness.

Today, the picture is very different. Today it’s all about future market value, realising untapped potential and locating the next area to go big. It’s an interesting sign of the times that, when showing someone around a property, we rarely hear anyone exclaim the immortal words: “Oh my god, I love it.”

Perhaps it’s fear of being drawn into the evil estate agent’s web of skilled negotiation tactics and devilish mind control: keep your emotions hidden and you’ll be safe from their charms; avoid enthusiasm at all costs, or it’ll cost you; and don’t be fooled by their smiles and pleasantries… once they’ve got you in their claws, there’ll be no escape and you’ll end up – oh horror of horrors! – in a home you adore.

So what’s going on?

First, the rise and continued popularity of TV interiors programmes has heightened people’s awareness of design and had them realise that, in some instances, a property can be transformed with not a lot of work and lifted from a bit depressing, to really rather nice. That’s a good thing, particularly where busy people are concerned. The word “potential” used to be lost on city types because they were simply too busy to think about the idea of living in a building site and coming home to dust central after a very long day at work. So to demonstrate how a reasonably small effort can transform a property that is otherwise a perfect match is a wholly positive thing.

But it’s the change in affordability that’s had the most dramatic effect on the way people relate to property. Particularly in London, where really the only people who can afford to get themselves onto the property ladder are those earning good money in the city (whether legal, financial or otherwise), perhaps it’s no wonder that hardcore rational analysis has replaced feelings and emotions as the driving force behind decisions.

And we are in a time of mass information, and of mass information being the order of the day. Everyone is armed to the teeth with mass information. New train lines, future regeneration, infrastructure improvements, historic house prices and projected growth areas – often delivered with dramatic headlines and anxiety inducing predictions – all form part of a decision that, let’s be honest, is a really big deal.

None of this is wrong, and we’ve absolutely no objection to people getting maximum financial benefit from their property making decision. But we hope it’s not at the expense of one of the best feelings there is: the joy of moving in to a home you truly love.

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