30 Mar 2016

The top 20 things that will sell your home

According to a new survey from Gocompare.com Mortgages, house-hunters opt for a good, reliable broadband signal over highly-rated schools; off-road parking over a garage and a living room big enough for a large flat screen telly over period features.

Warmth and energy efficiency are key priorities for house-hunters – perhaps thanks to the British climate and energy prices.  Central heating and double glazing top the list of the nation’s 20 property ‘must-haves’. A good energy efficiency rating and cavity wall insulation are also highly-rated features.

As above, homebuyers also rank a good, reliable broadband connection and mobile phone signal over highly-rated local schools and properties with period features – which both failed to make the top 20 in a survey of ‘must-have’ property features commissioned by Gocompare.com Mortgages:

Top 20 property ‘must-have’ features

1 Central heating 79%
2 Double glazing 74%
3 A garden 71%
4 Secure doors and windows 70%
5 Off road parking 58%
6 A bath tub 57%
7 Local shops and amenities 55%
8 Friendly neighbours 54%
9 A good, reliable broadband connection strong enough to stream films and TV 53%
10 A good energy efficiency rating 50%
11 A land line telephone 50%
12 A good TV signal 49%
13 A separate shower cubicle 47%
14 Cavity wall insulation 47%
15 At least two toilets 45%
16 A dining room 44%
17 A reliable and clear mobile phone signal 44%
18 A garage 43%
19 A living room big enough for a large, flat screen TV 39%
20 An en-suite bathroom 34%


22 Mar 2016

How to pack like a pro!

Plan ahead

A few weeks before you move, start saving your newspapers, and stock up on strong cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes. When you put the boxes together, tape across the base with a double strip of good quality packing tape. This is not the time to save money on cheap boxes and discount tape, you want to protect your belongings.

Sort out the essentials

Start by packing a suitcase with enough clean clothes to last a few days, and add must-haves like toiletries, toothbrush, medicine, hairdryer, jewellery, laptop and your phone charger. Pop any valuables in this suitcase, too.

Avoid first night stress

Buy a large clear plastic box and pack it with kitchen essentials – tea towels, scissors, sticky tape, kettle, tea-bags, a few mugs, washing-up liquid, toilet roll, tin opener, corkscrew and a screwdriver. Even better, keep your whole toolbox handy.

Pack sensibly

Put light things in big boxes and heavy things in small boxes. Then label your boxes in two ways: mark which room they’re going to, and list what’s in the box. Put labels on two sides (rather than the top) so that you can see them. You could even use a different-coloured label or pen per room.

Keep track of what you have

Number the boxes and keep a record of what’s in each numbered box – that way, you’ll know how many boxes you’re supposed to have at the other end and which ones, if any, have gone missing.

Go gently

Clearly mark the boxes that contain fragile stuff, and fill them carefully. Pack plates on their sides like vinyl records, and put a towel or some bubble wrap in the bottom first. Nest bowls two or three at a time, with a layer of paper between each bowl, then pack them on their rims. Wrap cups and glassware in a double layer of paper and pack them on their rims, too.

Think smart

Keep a roll of small plastic bags handy for bolts and screws. When you take a piece of furniture apart, put all the screws into a bag and tape it to the furniture. Photograph the back of your TV so you know how to wire it all up again, and tape your power leads to the relevant bit of kit. Otherwise, they’ll almost certainly get mixed up.

Save packing space

Use your suitcases and bags to carry smaller things and vacuum-seal spare duvets and pillows, as well as clothes you’re not likely to need for a few weeks (or even months).

Save time

If the drawers in your clothes cabinets pull out completely, leave the contents in place. And if you can afford to, invest in wardrobe cartons – that way, it’s quick and easy to empty your wardrobe without taking everything off the hangers.

Don’t forget the fiddly stuff

Roll up rugs and fasten with three strips of strong packing tape. Protect light-coloured items from dust and dirt by totally covering them with industrial stretch wrap. If you’re packing away lamps, take the bulbs out first and mark which lamp each one came from. Pack your jewellery in egg cartons to stop it getting tangled, or sandwich it between two layers of cling film, then roll it up. Easy!

09 Mar 2016
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The Perfect Viewing – 5 top tips!

Viewings are one of the most important parts of the buying process, it allows a prospective buyer to find out more about the property and the area and ultimately it will help them decide if it’s really the place for them to call home.  If you are doing viewings yourself, here are some worthwhile tips to keep in mind!

As the seller, you want your property to give off the very best impression and ultimately find someone who thinks it feels like home to them. The process can be long and stressful, so these 5 tips might just help you along the way to preparing for, and hosting the perfect viewing.

  1. First impressions really do count!

Viewings are always arrange for a mutually appropriate time, so if you then are unable to make it at the last minute or are browsing the aisles of your local supermarket whilst someone waits on your doorstep, you might as well rule that viewing out. Make sure you’ve spent some time cleaning and making a fresh and welcoming environment, whilst you want the property to be respectable, remember it isn’t a show home and showing it’s lived in can help to make people a little more comfortable. Some bright seasonal flowers and lots of nice natural light always make a property seem more welcoming.

  1. Kerb Appeal

Whilst, it’s important to have the inside of the property looking spot on, how does your property look from the road? If you’ve got an overgrown front garden trim it back and make it presentable so that when the potential buyers pull up outside, they can see a nice clear view of the property. If it looks like it’s poorly maintained, you could get off on the wrong foot and they may enter the property with a negative impression.

  1. Make it feel like home

It’s your home and the prospective buyers will be quite aware of this – you know it best so showing off the best features of the property and even telling little quirky anecdotes of the time your kids turned the under-stairs cupboard into their den will help them to picture their family calling it home.

  1. Don’t be pushy

You’re not there to push someone in to buying your home, you’re there to show them around the property and learn how fantastic it is. Sometimes it takes a buyer a little bit of time to decide if a property is right for them, making good impressions and answering any questions that they may have will always help them to make a decision of their own.

  1. Keep the best for last

Have something up your sleeve that the buyers aren’t expecting. Whilst you should start with a nice feature like your fantastic new kitchen, when you’re coming to the end of the viewing slip in another feature that will really impress, show off your mature, landscaped garden or the stunning views from your loft-room – adding these in last will make your home stick in their mind and will add a talking point when they begin to shortlist further.


16 Feb 2016

Beginners Guide to Conveyancing – Buying your new home

The following is a general guide to the conveyancing procedure when buying a property.   If you are in doubt about any specific issue you should consult your solicitor directly.

Initial Stages

  • Once you have told the solicitor that you wish to use their services you should receive a Letter of Engagement or Confirmation of Terms of Business.   You should sign and return this as soon as possible so that they can start work.   Funds will be requested to cover initial expenditure such as the cost of the searches.
  • You need to let your solicitor know from the outset if you are also selling a property and need the transactions to be tied together.
  • Your solicitor will write to the seller’s solicitor to confirm that they are instructed and request the draft contract. This should arrive with a pack that includes information on the property’s title and the standard forms completed by the seller.  If the property is leasehold a copy of the lease will also be included.
  • Before you commit to buying the property your solicitor will ask you your wishes regarding shared ownership
  • Many people buy houses in joint names and, as such, need to be aware of an important decision to be made in relation to joint ownership. There are two ways that you can jointly own a property:
  • Joint tenants – this is where both parties have an equal interest in the property and if one of you dies the survivor automatically owns the property.
  • Tenants in common    – you each own a specific share of the property and can leave that share by Will, in the event of your death.
  • You should inform your estate agent which solicitor you plan to use so that they can send a “Memorandum of Sale” to all the relevant parties together with a copy of the property particulars.

Legal Work prior to Contracting to Buy

  • The solicitor will examine the draft contract documents and if necessary raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. You will be required to go through the standard forms that the seller has completed and let the solicitor know if everything is as you expected.
  • If the property that you are buying is leasehold your solicitor will send a standard Managing Agents Questionnaire to the seller’s solicitors which will in turn be sent on to relevant Landlord/Managing Agents/Residents Association.
  • Searches will be ordered

Property searches. There are things you may not know about the property just from viewing it with estate agents or even getting a survey. The conveyancer will do a set of legal searches to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of. Some searches will be recommended by the solicitor for all purchases and others will be required by the mortgage lender to protect them from any liabilities that the property may have:

  • Local authority searches: are there plans for a motorway in your new garden? How about radioactive gas? This costs between £70 and £400 depending on the Local Authority and usually takes 1-2 weeks, but can take up to 6 weeks
  • Checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry– these are the legal documents proving the seller’s ownership. The title register check costs £3 and the title plan check costs £3. Both are legally required to sell.
  • Checking flood risk – this can also done at the Land Registry. If you are getting an Environmental Search you might not buy this one separately as the environmental search will contain much more thorough flood information and maps.
  • Water authority searches – find out how you get your water and if any public drains on the property might affect extensions or building works.The water authority search will cost between £50 and £75.
  • Chancel repair search – to ensure there are no potential leftover medieval liabilities on the property to help pay for church repairs. This is a necessity and costs £18. However, you may decide to take out Chancel repair insurance instead for £20 or so. The laws around Chancel repair changed in October 2013 so now the onus is on the Church to establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry.
  • Environmental Search – this report is used on the vast majority of transactions and is provided by either Landmark or Groundsure.  Depending which product your solicitor usually uses, the report will give information about contaminated land at or around the property, landfill sites, former and current industry, detailed flooding predictions, radon gas hazard, ground stability issues, and some other related information.  The cost should be around £50 to £60 including VAT.
  • Optional and location specific searches – sometimes extra searches are required or recommended depending on the location or type of property or due to particular concerns raised by the buyer.  These could include:
    • Tin Mining searches in Cornwall
    • Mining searches in various parts of the UK and Cheshire Brine searches
    • Additional Local Authority Questions such as Public Paths, Pipelines, Noise Abatement Zones, Common Land, etc.

Your Mortgage

  • If you are taking out a mortgage your solicitor will receive a copy of the offer and go through the conditions.
  • Your solicitor will normally undertake legal work on behalf of your lender as well.

Signing your Contract

  • Once answers to all the enquiries, including possibly enquiries on information in the Searches, have been returned they will be examined by your solicitor and if they are satisfactory you will be invited in to sign the contract and any mortgage documents. You will need to make arrangements for the deposit to be transferred into your solicitor’s bank account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange.

Exchange of Contracts

  • Before exchange of contracts can take place your lender (if you have one) will require you to have a Buildings Insurance policy in place.
  • All the parties involved need to agree on a completion date.
  • From the point at which contracts are exchanged you are legally bound to buy and the seller is legally bound to sell.   Should either party back out the other will be entitled to claim compensation for losses arising.
  • At the point that contracts are exchanged your solicitor will send your deposit to the seller’s solicitor. This acts as security for the seller in case you change your mind or for some reason are unable to pay the balance and complete the purchase. If that happens, the seller can keep your deposit, and may take you to court if the deposit is not enough compensation for breaking the contract. In the same way, if the seller exchanges contracts and then refuses to complete the sale, you could apply to the court for an order to force the seller to complete, or else get your deposit back and sue the seller for compensation. It is rare for a sale not to complete once contracts have been exchanged.

Between Exchange and completion

  • Your solicitor will draw up the transfer deed so that the property can be registered in your name as soon as possible after completion. Your solicitor will also carry out some further searches of a technical nature.
  • During this period you should receive a statement from your solicitor showing all your expenses and giving you a final figure which you will need to make sure is cleared in to your solicitor’s bank account before completion. If you are taking out a mortgage your solicitor will draw down the loan amount in time for completion.

On Completion

  • Completion is normally set for around lunchtime on the specified day although in practical terms completion takes place when the seller’s solicitor confirms that they have received all the money that is due. Once this has happened the seller should drop the keys off to the estate agent ready for you to collect.
  • Your solicitor will arrange for the title deeds to be registered in your name and if the property is leasehold ensure that your name is entered on to the lease. They will also get the transfer stamped to officially approve the sale
  • Finally, if you have taken out a mortgage, the deeds are sent to your lender for safe keeping until you either sell the property or pay off the loan.


10 Feb 2016

Beginners Guide to conveyancing – Selling your home

Conveyancing is the process of transferring a property from one legal owner to another. There are three separate stages to go through when you are SELLING a property:

  • Agreeing the sale
  • Exchange of contracts
  • Completion of sale

Agreeing the sale

  1. Once you have agreed the sale, you need to instruct Solicitors. Your Solicitor will put together a legal information pack to send to your buyer’s solicitor, which you will need to complete. This contains:
    • A property information form:You must complete this to answer questions about your property e.g .disputes with neighbours, guarantees about any work you have had done, boundaries, planning and building consents. It’s very important to complete this accurately, so make sure you check with your Solicitors if you have any queries or concerns. There is a second form about leasehold properties for flat owners which includes details of the freeholder, management company, service charges and ground rent.
    • A fixtures, fittings and contents form:You need to complete this form to show your buyers which items at the property you intend to leave behind and which to take with you e.g. cupboards, shelving, kitchen appliances. Make sure that this reflects what has been agreed on the estate agent’s particulars. FRONT DOOR
    • A copy of your title. You may hold the deeds if you own your property outright. If not, and in most cases, your mortgage lender may hold them for you. Your Solicitor will contact your mortgage lender to obtain the title deeds. In any event, your Solicitor will need to obtain up-to-date title information from the land registry, where the property is registered.
    • The contract of sale, which states the address and price of the property and the full names (including any middle names) and addresses of the buyer and seller.
  2. Your Solicitor will then deal with any questions from your buyer’s solicitor, for example questions which may arise from the searches that they will have done on your property (Local Search, Drainage and Water etc). Once any questions are answered satisfactorily, both sides will agree a completion date, or moving date (this will need to be a mutually convenient date for you as the seller and your buyer and you will, of course, be consulted). The completion date isn’t fixed in stone at this point, and often changes. Your estate agent is largely responsible for liaising with you and the buyer (and where applicable, other parties in the chain) to agree a mutually convenient completion date. A final completion date has to be agreed when you exchange contracts.

Exchange of contracts

  1. Your Solicitor receives the buyer’s deposit on your behalf.
  2. If you have a mortgage on your property, your Solicitor will ask your mortgage lender for a settlement figure. This is the amount you need to repay your mortgage lender once your property is sold.
  3. Your Solicitor will then send your signed contract to your buyer’s solicitor, who then send the buyer’s signed contract to them by return. You are now committed to the sale of the property, and cannot go back on it without paying a large financial penalty. The completion date is set ‘in stone’ on exchange.
  4. You will receive a Transfer Deed to sign which will be handed over on completion in order for the buyer to register their names on the deeds.


  1. On the completion date you have agreed, your buyer’s solicitor will send your Solicitor the balance of the payment for your property.
  2. Your Solicitor will confirm to you and to your Estate Agents that completion has taken place and that keys can be handed over to the buyer.
  3. Your Solicitor will use the monies received from the Buyers Solicitors to pay off your mortgage, your estate agents fees, your Solicitors fees and any costs incurred during the sale. Any money left over will be handed over to you, unless it is needed for a purchase you are making.
  4. Your Solicitor will then hand over the deeds of the property to your buyer’s solicitor to register their client as the new owner, and remove any reference to you and your mortgage, if any.
25 Jan 2016

Five expert tips for selling your home.

  1. Presentation, Presentation, Presentation

A flat or house must look like a show home as initial impressions are made the moment someone walks towards or through the door. Dressing and styling is an important factor, presenting a property in the best possible light often comes down to small yet vital details, this will make it stand out in a competitive market and a little effort and investment will go a long way. Make beds with white or neutral linen, lay tables, put towels in the bathroom (preferably white), add flowers, coffee table books and a few candles.

  1. De-clutter and De-Personalise

A property needs to feel like a home but be sure to remove personal items so anyone can imagine themselves living there with their own belongings.

  1. Finish and Condition

Clean, repaint where necessary, steam clean carpets or replace if needed. It might also be a good investment to update bathrooms and kitchens with a neutral finish and make sure all surfaces are clear.  Repair grouting, sealant and anything that looks neglected so that prospective tenants or buyers know they are committing to a well looked after property.

  1. Outside Appearance

Both the entrance and garden (if any) need to be clear and in tidy order.  Remove dead plants, weeds and unwanted items – redecorate externally if needs be. This provides a good first impression.

  1. Smell and Warmth

Open windows to air the property before viewings. Switch on the heating to keep it warm and welcoming and make sure all the lights are working.

These, sometimes small, improvements can help you increase the value of your house as well as make it more appealing to prospective buyers.




20 Jan 2016

Should you look to find your ideal property BEFORE putting your home on the market?

The property market seems to be viewed as either fast rising – according to press interpretation, or about to crash. It’s only news if it is shooting up or down but rarely is the focus on the plight of any normal person trying to move. As many reading this will know the moment you mention property, whoever you are talking to will have some ongoing property related hassle, or will reminisce about such and will likely tell you all about it!  Living in and particularly moving from property is fraught with potential pitfalls and is well known as one of the top three life stress events.

Given the ever increasing burden of moving costs and the sheer cost of property itself, it would seem sensible to make sure you do it as rarely as you can. The key to finding the right home is not to panic however,  the way most go about moving seems to do just that and in fact only makes the panic worse.

Understandably it’s easy to get the cart before the horse. Many will excitedly start looking about with only a vague idea of what they have to spend. Convention dictates that they’ll find what they want and put in an offer and only then think about selling what they have. The upshot is often that they’ll overpay for what they’re buying and undersell what they have in the panic to match completion dates.

This is not the ideal way to maintain you and your family’s fortunes.

If you are trying to move let’s get things in the right order!

  1. Get some idea of what your property is worth.
  2. Get some idea of your buying budget.
  4. Put your property on the market.
  5. When you have an offer START LOOKING.
  6. If you’re lucky dovetail the two transactions.
  7. If you don’t find what you’re looking for seriously consider selling and moving into a short term rental, this puts you in an ideal position to offer seriously on properties without being in any kind of chain.
  8. If you’ve sold and are in a rental, relax and take your time – you have money in the bank.
  9. You’re now at the front of any agents queue, so strike a good deal.
  10. Complete a [relatively] stress free move!


05 Jan 2016

Top 10 Reasons to move to Chester

Top Ten Reasons to move to Chester

It’s official!! According to the 2015 UK Hot Housing Index – Chester is the best place to live in the UK!

Good education

From nurseries that get your children off to a good start to Lifelong Learning courses to give adults more opportunities, education in Chester is among the best.

Good housing

Whether you are looking for a swish luxury apartment or a large family home, the city boasts top quality housing.

Good jobs

Chester boasts high levels of employment.  The Chester Business Park itself houses Bank of America, Marks & Spencer Money, Royal Bank of Scotland, GB Group, Widex and Regus serviced offices.  A new £220m retail and leisure development is currently being considered for Northgate, anchored by a development store and also featuring a multi-screen cinema, hotel and retail units which will invigorate the future economic success of the city.

County capital

Chester is the seat of county government and is also home to Chester City Council. It is the hub of local economy which over the last 20 years has been one of the fastest growing economies in the UK.

Super suburbs

Picking just 2 of those, Hoole is a popular bustling and fiercely independent village with quirky shops, trendy bars and great sense of community as is Handbridge which dates back to Roman times and is dubbed ‘Chester’s earliest suburb’.

University of Chester

The city is an attractive place for students to live and learn and the university has a great reputation for excellence.

Grosvenor Park

Given to the city by Richard, the second Marquis of Westminster, who also paid for the design and laying out of the ‘leisure park’ by the famous Edward Kemp, it is today regarded as one of the finest examples of a Victorian park.

Small businesses

This compact city with its highly skilled population is the perfect place to set up small businesses.

Culture and heritage

Share in the life of a city that has existed for nearly 2,000 years and enjoy its attractions by day and by night.

Fair Trade

Chester is the first Fair Trade city in the country, a way of ensuring fair treatment for producers, a movement that is as important for local farmers and craftspeople as it is for those from overseas.

Image by: Christopher John

17 Dec 2015


Give your windows the wow factor with one of these three key styles.

Just as you create a different mood when you change your outfit, you’ll affect the mood of a room with the style of window treatment you choose. A dining room with stripped wood furniture, neutral wall and floor coverings and an airy aspect looks perfect when simple, semi-opaque voile curtains decorate the window. Put up heavy velvet drapes with swags and bows and people will wonder what went wrong.

Curtains or blinds can also be used to provide privacy. If your sitting room is at the front of the house, do you really want your neighbours peering in as you settle down to an episode of Coronation Street? And while your viewing habits may not make headlines, thieves scouring the area might be happy to know that they can make off with a laptop, TV and DVD player located just a few feet from the kerb.

So, before you decide on a window treatment, make a list that considers all of these points – as well as any factors such as light levels, window shape, size and style – and you’ll be better-equipped to make the right choice both practically and aesthetically.


Vamp up this classic way to dress up your windows using plush material, available in an endless variety of patterns, textures and colours. Curtains can be short and neat, or you can really go for the glam factor with romantic drapes that cascade down to the floor in heaps. During these cooler summer months, however, you can ditch the heavy drapes and go for see-through voile-type fabrics which are cool and floaty.


Not only are they timeless and chic – think Parisian balconies – but shutters also offer privacy and can be adjusted to provide light and ventilation. They are great in summer – if it’s stifling hot, open your windows, but close and lock shutters to keep your home secure while providing airflow. Your look can be traditional or ultra-modern – both choices look fabulous – depending on the character of your home.


For a more contemporary look, opt for blinds which can fit windows of any size and are sure to brighten up a dull spot.

15 Dec 2015


Know Your Responsibilities.

Letting a house can be a great way to provide extra income or be an investment for the future. There are many important aspects that need to be carefully considered and planned to make sure your plans run as smoothly as possible.

Firstly it’s best practice to find a reputable letting agent, such as Fearnalls, to manage your let. An established agent will give you the best advice, however it’s important to be aware of the following information.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

Under the Housing Act 1988 residential properties are automatically let with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This guarantees the right to claim the property back after 6 months if the tenant defaults on their rent for 8 or more weeks.

Tenancy Agreements.

A tenancy agreement should always be agreed and signed up front, before occupancy commences. Informal or verbal agreements are open to interpretation and often cause headaches further down the line.

Property Repairs.

The Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 ensures that landlords must maintain the building (exterior and structure). This includes windows, roof, walls, electrical and gas safety and heating. Tenants are generally expected to undertake minor jobs such as general housekeeping and gardening.

Deposit Protection Scheme.

Respected agents such as Fearnalls adhere to the Deposit Protection Scheme that ensures a tenant’s deposit is safeguarded and in the case of issues arising at the end of a tenancy there are processes in place to resolve. Within thirty days of receiving a deposit, it must be placed into an authorised deposit protection scheme, and notice provided to the tenant about the scheme and their rights.

Home Inventory.

Recording an inventory of all contents that will remain in the home during the tenancy is very important. The inventory should be checked, agreed and signed for by both parties before the tenancy commences.