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WARM WELCOMES: TURN YOUR COLD VIEWERS INTO HOT BUYERS

January 26, 2021 #

There are still two months of winter before spring hits on March 21st, so if you’re selling your home in the chilly season, it’s essential to extend the warmest of welcomes to potential buyers when they visit.

The sensations of comfort and joy that make you glad to be indoors are precisely how your viewers should feel as they enter your home from traipsing around in the cold. By warming their bodies and seducing their souls, you can deliver an invitation to stick around not just for now, but forever.  And if nothing else, you’ll have proved that the heating works!

So let’s take a look at how you can capture a feeling of irresistible cosiness – the Danes call it hygge – throughout every corner of your home. Read on and discover how cold viewers can be turned into hot buyers, compelled to contact your agent with a full asking price offer and determined to make the place where you live, the place they call home.

HALL OR NOTHING

Think how wonderful it feels when you return home from a long winter’s walk, a trip to the shop in the freezing cold, or a busy day at work. You put the key in the lock, open the front door, and feel the warm air from inside blow over your face.

Then, as you step into your hall and take off your coat and shoes, you exhale a satisfied “ahhhhhh” as you head into the kitchen to put the kettle on, happy in the knowledge that you’re in and toasty for the evening. That’s the feeling to create for everyone who comes to view.

Start with a greeting as welcoming as Santa, and put your outdoor lamps and hallway light on a timer. With one simple automation you’ll never fail to present a daily come-inside glow the minute that dusk begins to fall.

Inside, make sure the temperature encourages your viewers to stay and savour your home, rather than scurry about with their arms wrapped tightly around them while their breath steams in the freezing air.

For an enthusiastic removal of coats and shoes, you need to make room for coats and shoes to go. Empty some hooks and clear some floor space to make it easy for potential buyers to make themselves at home.

LOUNGES TO LOVE

Not everyone has an open or real flame fire, but for those of you who do, it’s time to put it to work! If you’re around shortly before viewings, be sure to leave the fire lit so it’s crackling and popping in readiness for your visitors. (Or ask your agent to arrive early and set the scene.)

To combat the darker days and longer nights, turn your side lamps on and check to ensure they’re radiating a soft and mellow light. That means bulbs with warm-white and soft tones, rather than stark, interrogation-room fluorescence.

Now turn to your couch and armchairs. Do they call you to sink into the upholstery, or do they encourage you to stand? A chunky-knit throw over the sofa is an invitation to fall into its comforting arms, while a simple cushion can turn an empty armchair into a snug reading or whiskey spot.

KITCHEN COMFORTS

Pop a butternut squash on your worktop and try saying it doesn’t make a difference! Winter vegetables – and squashes and pumpkins in particular – have a glorious presence and are nature’s very own works of delicious and edible art.

But why stop there? Stand a winter recipe book behind them, like Riverford’s Autumn & Winter Cookbook with its stunning cover of colourful gourds. With a simple stroke you’ll conjure convivial imagery in your viewers’ minds of snug winter evenings with hearty stews, soups, conversation and laughter.

And if you’d been thinking of baking an apple and cinnamon crumble but were holding off for the right occasion, the perfect moment to fill your home with delicious aromas is just before a viewing!

BATHROOM BLISS

With their tiled surfaces, chrome accessories and bright white fittings, bathrooms can sometimes feel clinical and cold. That might be a welcome respite from hot summer days, but the winter months require a warmer touch.

Timber and textiles are your friends here. As purveyors of romance and comfort, their very presence can transform the look, feel and acoustic of your bathroom, turning a hard and echoey space into a soft and soothing one.

Wood goes with everything, and its grain and tone will enrich any setting and style. Bamboo bath shelves look brilliant when loaded with soaps from Lush and amber medicine bottles, while an oak duckboard in front of the shower makes a chic alternative to a soggy mat.

Folded fluffy towels are a fast and foolproof injection of luxurious texture, while sumptuous robes hanging from hooks turn up the spa-quality. You could even keep special sets of both that are purely for viewings: buy the ones you want for your next home now, but use them only for show when potential buyers visit.

Remove any bathroom products with garish bottles or tubes (that means most of them!) and only display your aesthetically-pleasing pots and potions like Rituals, Aesop and Jo Malone.

SLEEPING SANCTUARIES

When it comes to a dream bedroom, it’s remarkably easy to create a seductive inner sanctum no matter how minimalist or maximalist your lifestyle.

The simple act of laying a thick blanket or throw across the bottom half of the bed will instantly spice up your bedroom’s allure, with bonus points for a couple of woven cushions in front of your pillows

If you’ve got a wall that feels bare, hang a large print to break up the barren expanse, or try the hotelier’s hack of painting the wall behind the bed in a rich, velvety tone for an elevated boutique experience.

A fabric laundry hamper can swallow any wayward clothing, while the living-room trick of soft-tone bulbs for your bedside lamps will melt the heart of anyone coming to view.

OUTSTANDING OUTDOORS

Even if you’re staying inside for as much of winter as you can, it doesn’t mean your garden or balcony can’t look beautiful and inviting.

Lighting is essential: your viewers need to see what’s out there so they can fall in love with it. So check your exterior lights are working and, if you don’t have any installed, sling a string of bulbs between walls or trees for charming winter magic.

If you’ve got a covered deck or patio where your furniture won’t get battered by the elements, leave your table and chairs on display. Even when they’re not in use they can still demonstrate what a wonderful place you have to sit and enjoy the outdoors.

The next best option is to store them away in a shed or garage, with furniture covers coming in third as the final resort: while they’re supremely practical, they’re rarely a stylish accessory.

You can still buy colourful winter flowers like cyclamens and pansies from garden centres that are already in bloom, and they look far better in your pots than dead leaves or desolate soil.

In summary

Can you see how easy it is to create the warmest of welcomes and a delightful viewing experience for anyone coming to view? With a few minutes of online ordering, you can have your home looking and feeling like an irresistible place to hide away when it’s cold and bleak outside.

If you have a property in County Louth and you’ve been struggling to find a buyer, or if you’re thinking about selling, why not get in touch? Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie we’d love to help you make the most of winter viewings so you can get your move underway.

PROS OR CONS: IS A MANAGING AGENT WORTH YOUR MONEY?

January 19, 2021 #

It takes a certain character to be a managing agent: the job has a reputation as a thankless task with days full of complaints, emergencies, breakdowns and hassle. And if we’re honest,  rarely does anyone call with news that everything’s just fine.

But to be a managing agent is also to be the person who makes everything right. A property that never needs maintaining, or where nothing ever goes wrong, simply doesn’t exist and emergencies rarely happen at a convenient moment: not for homeowners, not for tenants and certainly not for landlords. For a managing agent, they’re an expected part of the day.

Whether you’re an existing or budding landlord, you’re right to keep an eye on your outgoings. You might even have questioned whether a managing agent is really worth the expense. But do you include the personal costs as well? How much do you value your time and how you spend it?

This week’s blog is not to convince you to use a managing agent, but to show you how life could be if you did. From inspections, maintenance and easier accounting, to keeping you on the right side of the law and protecting you in the event of disputes, here are five one-minute morsels of how we look after our landlords, and what we could do for you.

KEEPING THINGS LEGAL

If one of your hobbies is scrolling through the government’s website for changes in legislation regarding rental property, you are unlike anyone we know.

It’s a time-consuming task and a rolling responsibility that many landlords fall foul of: you need only to look at the eye-watering number of landlords who lose disputes. If you get anything wrong in the legal process, the law will likely find in favour of your tenant.

But while landlord and lettings legislation is certainly a minefield, it’s not one you need to walk through. Managing agents are charged with knowing all there is to know and taking the appropriate action. It’s not something on top of our job: it is our job, and it’s made far more workable by having all day, every day to do it.

As soon as a new piece of legislation becomes law, we ensure that every single property we manage is brought in line and on time: our landlords rarely need to do a thing. Imagine if they all had to clear their individual days to find out precisely the same information as each other – how many wasted hours of life is that?

TRUSTED CONTRACTORS

Have you ever been in a conversation about the difficulties in finding reliable companies to repair something at your home? Or where a contractor came in, charged the earth and made the matter worse? Almost everyone has experienced some version of that.

It’s one thing waiting in for a plumber at your own home, but when it comes to meeting them miles away – and with a three-hour arrival window in the middle of winter – it’s really not the same. And if they don’t turn up at all, or you need to revisit when the works aren’t done correctly, it’s more hours out of your life and a less than happy tenant.

It’s taken us years – and plenty of tears – to develop a circle of trusted tradespeople. We’ve met disastrous contractors along the way, but our list of long-standing connections can deal with almost every kind of emergency and problem you can imagine. There’s rarely something that comes up that we haven’t dealt with before.

Our strong relationships mean that we often get priority treatment, with repairs attended to quickly, properly and at a reasonable cost: a win-win situation for everyone.

TAX RELIEF

Where do you keep your receipts? If you’re anything like most people it’s a combination of inside your wallet or purse;  generously sprinkled across numerous pockets; and the occasional triumph involving the box file marked ‘receipts’ (a purchase made with perfectly good intentions, but rarely enjoying its intended role).

And when it comes to completing a tax return, we can add checking a year of credit card and bank statements, and trawling back through emails for online orders and purchases. The unappealing nature of the task means it’s generally left to the very last – and somewhat stressful – hours before the deadline, so unless your perfect drinking partner is the self-assessment website, it’s hardly an ideal evening for enjoying a bottle of Pinot Noir.

Now, just for a moment, imagine receiving a statement of all your income and expenditure for your rental property without a single piece of paper to lose. If all the information you needed was there to cut and paste directly into the self-assessment website, how much time, energy and brain space would that free up?

Some of our landlords tell us it’s worth the management fee alone.

REGULAR INSPECTIONS

Whether you’re an intentional or an accidental landlord, one of the main attractions of buy-to-let is the thought of passive income. But a truly passive income means doing nothing at all, and the act of owning a rental property doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.

Most landlords are responsible people, and part of being a responsible landlord is visiting your tenants at regular intervals; not only to identify and discuss any maintenance or enjoyment issues, but also to nurture a healthy relationship. You’d certainly save time if you never inspected your property, but your message of disinterest might well be returned by your tenants.

It’s the same with your own home: when you actively keep an eye on things, you spot potential problems fast and prevent them becoming more complicated and costly. A fresh pair of eyes almost always highlights something that’s been missed or unreported, so inspections are an invaluable part of a tenancy.

But there’s no escaping that they are work, and they take time. Your time.

CONFRONTATIONS

The odd malfunction or minor repair is one thing, but when problems come one after another – or where your tenant experiences a change in circumstances, or becomes a nuisance – the relationship and communication can become strained.

You’ve probably had the experience where it feels like things keep going wrong at home: first the boiler; then the washing machine; then an extractor fan; then a tap. On their own they’re tiny issues and often a matter of wear and tear, but the difference is that your extractor fan is not interrupting someone else’s life. You might be a bit miffed when it stops working, but no-one is getting angry with you.

Now let’s consider a tenant whose finances take a turn for the worse, or someone who causes problems among your neighbours, whether deliberately or accidentally. Thankfully these occasions are scarce, but there is rarely any warning and they can have major implications for you as the landlord, which might affect your ability to keep your cool.

Having a third party, and one of authority, to step in on your behalf can help alleviate situations fast, without them ever getting personal or overheated.

So how does that sound?

Are all of the duties of a self-managing landlord adding value to your life, or can you see the benefits in having them handled for you?

Think of a managing agent as a scientifically impossible preventative ibuprofen: you might not be able to plan for a physical headache, but you can reduce the risk of your rental property becoming a pain in the neck.

For us, emergency repairs, regular maintenance, changes in the law and unexpected events are not inconvenient interruptions: they’re exactly what we’re waiting for. We certainly don’t spend our days doing nothing, but we do spend them ensuring that you have nothing to do.

If you have a rental property in County Louth and you’re wondering how a managing agent could make your life as a landlord easier, why not get in touch? Even if you’re still on the fence, call us for a chat 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie we’d love to help you turn your rental property into a truly passive income.

SWIFT, SAFE AND SURE: THE GUIDE TO SELLING YOUR HOME IN LOCKDOWN

January 12, 2021 #

If you’d been waiting until the new year to put your moving plans into action, you might be wondering whether to put them back on hold. But if you do that, when will you be able to think about moving again?

Let’s start by saying that 2021 is very different from the first lockdown of March 2020. This year, the housing market has been allowed to remain open, and not just because of its economic importance: our wellbeing is equally vital, and life doesn’t simply stop. (You need only look at children and how they’ve continued to grow, regardless of a national lockdown and global pandemic.)

With clear government guidelines in place around every aspect of buying and selling a home, most businesses connected with the housing market have adapted to keep people moving. Estate agents, photographers, energy assessors, conveyancers, lenders and removals companies have all found ways to operate safely and efficiently to help you get to where you want to go. On top of all that, the market is really good!

So this week’s blog is about the current realities of getting your move in place. From putting your home on the market and managing viewings to the legal process and moving day itself, you’ll be pleased to know that you can capture the market’s momentum and move safely and swiftly in lockdown.

VALUING YOUR HOME

If you are looking to move soon, we can meet you in your home to provide a full market appraisal around saleability, presentation and setting an asking price. If working from home and home-schooling means you’re fuller than usual, we can either fix a time when fewer people are present or find a way to minimise contact during our visit.

The same arrangements apply to organising photography, floor plans and Energy Performance Certificates. With restrictions in place around the number of households present at any one time, we’ll need to arrange these visits separately rather than simultaneously. Nonetheless, we can still get your home on the market in roughly the same timescale as usual.

If you’re not thinking about moving just yet but would like some advice on the market value of your home, we can arrange an appraisal by video to give you an idea of asking price, nearby sales and what to have in place for when you’re ready to go.

HOSTING VIEWINGS

One of the more positive aspects of lockdown is how viewing restrictions have introduced further requirements to filter serious interest from casual enquiries.

We check that anyone wishing to view your home is in a position to move right now, from confirming that finances are in place to checking that chains are complete where someone is selling. You can be sure that every viewer will be a ready, willing and able purchaser.

Although in-person viewings are allowed, we’re strongly encouraging virtual tours and detailed discussions before personal visits. We need to minimise the number of people from different households in your home at any one time, so open days are not allowed, and all viewings must be by appointment.

We’re keen to minimise the disruption to any arrangements you have in place around working from home or home-schooling, and we can incorporate no-go times into viewing schedules. And if you have a neighbour in your bubble, can you decamp there while we’re showing people around?

SEIZING MOMENTUM

Right now, the market is on your side with high levels of enthusiasm and enquiries. It may seem remarkable, but lockdown has driven the level of activity upwards because moving home is one of the few areas of life to remain open.

You can capitalise on the moment with precision pricing, perfect presentation and gathering the information a buyer might want to see before submitting an offer, so dig out any guarantees and certificates along with recent utility bills.

Although in-person meetings might look very different, we are available by email, video and phone to speak to buyers and answer their questions around timescales, fixtures, fittings and price. In short, you can receive, negotiate, accept or refuse offers just as usual.

LEGAL & LENDING

To minimise potential delays after accepting an offer, start every process as soon as you can to make the most of the time your home is for sale.

Although solicitors have been mostly unaffected in their internal operations, it pays to instruct one as soon as you put your property on the market. They can help you start collating paperwork now in readiness for when you agree a sale.

Mortgage application times were severely affected after the first lockdown, so if you plan to take a mortgage on your next home, get your loan agreed in principle now. Lenders are catching up on the backlog from the summer and autumn boom, but it’s wise to move the process forward as soon as you can.

MOVING DAY

Before we get into the logistics of what you can and can’t do on moving day itself, we must remind you to pack the kettle, cups and teabags last! Don’t get stuck without essential refreshments, and remember you can only supply them to your household and bubble (and not your removals team).

Now is a sensible time to start exploring removals firms to identify the ones providing everything you need. Some companies have withdrawn their packing services, while others have limits on the number of people allowed from your household while their teams are loading and unloading your belongings.

If you plan to do your own packing and moving, don’t forget you can only ask your household and bubble to help: unfortunately, you can’t invite a party of friends and family to wrap your plates and carry your furniture. To break the packing process down into manageable pieces, begin as soon as you know a completion date.

In summary

Lockdown needn’t get in your way if you are looking to sell your home soon. The property industry has learned a lot since coronavirus entered our vocabulary, and we’ve become quite adept in keeping everyone safe and moving with minimal inconvenience.

If you have a property in County Louth and you’re unsure whether to put your moving plans into action, why not get in touch? We’re available by phone on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie – we’d love to be a part of making your move happen.

LET’S GET ORGANISED: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR LANDLORDS

January 6, 2021 #

From giving up smoking, to a change of diet, to getting in some exercise, now is the time of year when all sorts of new year’s resolutions are being made and declared. Health and fitness are the usual areas we concentrate on, but there are also things to consider in terms of your wellbeing as a landlord.

January always brings about a desire or search for change, so now is the perfect time to examine whether the way you operate as a landlord is entirely good for you. There’s a lot to manage, a lot to remember and a lot to stay on top of, even with just one property (let alone a larger portfolio).

We speak to more and more landlords who find it quite a task to keep abreast of the ever-increasing legislation while also keeping to their regular responsibilities of looking after their rental property and tenants. But we also meet landlords who are doing more than they need to, leaving them less time for enjoying life.

So for the start of 2021, here are four new year’s resolutions to make your life as a landlord easier, more organised and more fun.

I WILL SET REMINDERS

Passive income is an appealing part of being a landlord, but there are times in the year when you’ll need to be active. That said, you can minimise the brain space required by setting reminders in your calendar for important dates.

You should check that smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire blankets are in place and working properly each year, and the same goes for a gas and oil boilers, so those re recurring appointments that can go into your calendar right away. Set them in your smartphone now, and it’ll remind you forever.

Insurance policies also come up for renewal each year, so it’s worth setting those dates as well. More than ensuring that payment is made, you’ll have the opportunity to shop around for more competitive quotes, rather than just renewing your current policy through lack of time.

Building Energy Report certificates (BERs) are valid for 10 years, so check the date of your last one and put a reminder in your calendar for a couple of months before the expiry date. If a tenant is already in occupation and stays beyond your BER’s expiry date then you won’t need a new certificate until they vacate, but there’s no harm having the reminder in place.

Other dates for your diary may include appliances on regular maintenance contracts, periodic redecoration, or half-yearly inspections of your property.

By setting these items and reminders in your calendar now, you’ll remove the need to keep them in your head and be able to deal with them in good time, rather than get caught by surprise. Or late!

I WILL BUILD AN EMERGENCY FUND

You can’t predict when the unexpected will happen, but you can prepare for it. No one wants the dreaded call from their tenant saying the boiler has broken down, the washing machine has finally died, or the drains are blocked, but it’ll be worse if you don’t have the money to fix it.

By setting up an emergency fund, you can safeguard yourself in the event of sudden problems. Aiming to save 10% of each month’s rent is a good number to work to and will give you a cushion against unexpected expenditure, as well as vacant periods.

Getting on top of your rental finances and putting something aside for emergencies can stop you running into financial trouble. Otherwise, you might be left taking out a loan to cover the costs, or getting repairs done on the cheap, only for the problem to rear its head again.

You could also take out emergency insurance cover, but make sure to check for what’s included: appliances often aren’t and extras can add up.

I WILL ACT LIKE A BUSINESS

Being a landlord is most definitely running a business, so if you haven’t done so already, embrace a professional mindset.

Start by making sure you’re clued up on the latest legislation. From up-to-date Right to Rent checks to new EPC rules requiring a rating of E or above, there is plenty you need to know. In fact, there are more than 150 pieces of legislation relevant to the rental market and understanding your obligations makes not only smart business sense, it will keep you on the right side of the law.

Of course, being in-the-know about legislation isn’t the only way to treat your rental property as a business; service also has a major role to play. Always respond quickly when your tenants contact you, whether it’s a minor issue or major repairs. Everybody accepts that some things can’t be fixed immediately, but the simple act of responding shows a responsibility towards your property and tenants.

It’s also important to make inspections of your property during the tenancy, at least once every six months. As well as building trust and maintaining a good landlord-tenant relationship, your visit might identify a potential problem that had so far gone unspotted: it’s always easier to notice more around a property when you haven’t seen it for a while, than when you see it every day.

A high level of service and a good relationship helps to keep your tenants happier and to stay in your property for longer, resulting in fewer void periods and better yields.

I WILL REDUCE MY BURDENS

While it’s important to get everything in order with your rental business, we still recommended going easy on yourself. Some landlords have buy-to-let portfolios; others have a single property they manage alongside their primary job. Either way, the business of being a landlord can be time-consuming and can interfere with doing the things you love.

Some landlords we meet do all the little odd jobs themselves, which might save them money, but certainly costs them time. This can be down to their mistrust of contractors or an unwillingness to spend, but very often they appear quite hassled.

Hiring a managing agent is one way to get your time back, whether you’ve got a portfolio of one, ten or more. They’ll organise your compliance obligations, stay on top of legislation, attend to tenant issues, carry out inspections and make sure your rental property is run like a business on your behalf. They’ll also have local and trusted contractors to call when things go wrong to make sure that repairs are done swiftly and correctly: if a contractor wants to keep getting the business for a managing agent’s properties, they absolutely need to be reliable.

Having all of this handled leaves you free to focus on the things in life that really matter, like spending time with family and friends. And all the while enjoying a passive income from your property without the need to worry about every – or any – little thing.

In summary

As Benjamin Franklin said: “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”, so getting your landlord year off to an organised start is a wise move indeed. Then you can spend the rest of 2021 knowing that your rental business is running like a well-oiled machine.

If you have a rental property in County Louth and you’d like to find out whether a managing agent is right for you, why not get in touch? Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie– we’d love to show you how we can help you make the most of being a landlord.

DECLUTTER FOR GOOD: START YOUR 2021 WITH A ROOM-BY-ROOM RESET

December 29, 2020 #

The weeks either side of New Year always involve some sort of clearing out. Whether you’ve hosted over the season, been a guest somewhere else or stayed at home for a quiet one, there are cards, wrapping, boxes and bottles to throw out, and decorations to take down and put away.

New Year is also a catalyst for change and the increase in energy makes it the perfect time to declutter your home, regardless of whether you’re staying or selling.  It’s one of those jobs that gets easily put off, but once you begin, you’ll find the sense of accomplishment quickly grows.

Before you get overwhelmed, a quick note on what decluttering really means. It’s not about becoming a minimalist or having everything correctly displayed, but neither does it mean filling your loft, cellar or garage with things you no longer use.

Author and TV star Marie Kondo began a whole new trend with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which helps people identify items that “spark joy. Taking her stance, decluttering means keeping what you love, giving it a place to shine and having more space in your mind, as well as your rooms.

However you do it – selling, donating, or rearranging (yes, it can sometimes come down to simple presentation) – there’s no need to read an entire book to get your house in order: all you need is our room-by-room guide to decluttering your home for good.

ENTRANCE HALLS

Nowhere sets the mood for the rest of your home quite like your hallway, so how would you describe its greeting? A warm welcome that’s easy to navigate, or an obstacle course of boots and sneakers below a jumble of jackets, coats, scarves and bags?

If you’re struggling with how to streamline the bulk, think seasonally. Right now you don’t need summer jackets and shoes, so move them to a wardrobe or box. But first, hold them in your hands and decide if you’re ever going to wear them again.

If there’s a cupboard in your hall, could your coats or shoes live there? Alternatively, a narrow unit that stores your footwear in vertical drawers can be a stylish and space-saving solution.

And if you’re worried about your walls being too bare without coats, hang a picture or even some photos in a gallery of friends and family – the one place they won’t overwhelm a potential buyer!

LIVING & DINING ROOMS

Books and magazines can bring a real sense of home to a room, but they can multiply beyond capacity if you’re a keen reader. On shelves, they look great but piled on tables or the floor they make a room feel smaller and chaotic.

Marie Kondo is big on vertical filing because it looks neater and uses less space, so take a leaf out of her book – pun most definitely intended! If there are particular articles, recipes or ideas that you want to keep, tear them from magazines and keep them in a smart binder before the rest goes off for recycling.

Contrary to popular belief, personal photographs on display are fine when selling your home, so long as they don’t overwhelm your rooms or sit in a dusty collection. Pictures of friends and family are proven happiness creators, but grins from every corner can leave viewers wondering where to look. So consider putting some frames away while you are selling, or hanging them in the hall.

Now let’s take a look at your accessories: are they there because you love them, or because you feel guilty about removing then, or because you’ve forgotten about them? Keep only those you love. And maybe there’s more space for something in another room if this one’s looking crowded?

If your dining table is doubling as an office, paperwork can quickly build up and leave you eating among your workload.  A few box files can help you get your work off the table to reclaim your mealtimes.

KITCHENS

As the hub of the home, the kitchen can gather far more than people. Worktops, breakfast bars and tables disappear under papers, while cupboards fill with all manner of forgotten food and gadgets.

Start with the cupboards, removing old food that’s found its way to the back with the loose rice grains. Not only will cooking be more efficient, enjoyable and healthy, but your viewers will marvel at the effortless storage space.

A stainless steel Kitchen Aid or Dualit toaster can add a lifestyle element to a kitchen, but having too many gadgets on surfaces can look mismatched and conceal the available workspace. Look at everything you have: are you actually using the bread maker and rice cooker, or could they find a happier home? And does that blender deserve pride of place or a place in a cupboard?

If your kitchen is the administrative centre of your home, keep a shelf or cupboard for box files. But first, do you need all that paperwork? Online billing and statements can stem the incoming flow; manuals for appliances can be found online and taking photos of correspondence you want to keep means you can shred everything else.

BEDROOMS

There’s nothing like a mess to disturb the magic in a bedroom, with wardrobes, chests of drawers, nightstands and even under the bed all competing to help you hoard.

Clothes are the easiest things to accumulate, and Marie Kondo’s method involves piling everything on the bed and then individually picking each item up. Does it spark joy? You’ll surprise yourself at how many don’t.

Potential buyers may look inside built-in wardrobes, so they need to be presentable and roomy for viewings: an apparent struggle for space just isn’t a selling point. If your clothing edit doesn’t free up enough room, get vacuum bags for anything you’re not wearing right now and store them somewhere out of sight.

TIP: rotating your vacuum bags with the seasons will keep your wardrobe continually free of excess.

For nightstands, those little drawers can hold a lot! Entertainment and travel tickets; expired credit cards; various leaflets, and, if we’re honest, old tissues. Remove anything that’s no longer of use and, if you’d love to be reminded of what you’ve seen and where you’ve been, make a pinboard of your tickets to hang in the loo.

BATHROOMS

With its gleaming fittings, tiles and brassware, your bathroom could well be another highlight in your home, but there is hardly anyone who doesn’t have some level of unused medicines or lotions lurking in a cabinet. So first things first, remove all your out-of-date products along with any you’re just not going to use.

If you’re selling your home, the only items to have on display are those that add a sense of style and comfort: think soft bathrobes and luxury-branded products like Rituals or Jo Malone.

Open shelves and freestanding caddies look sumptuous with soaps and fluffy towels, but they’re dust traps for everything else, so move bottles, pots and brushes into the space you’ve just created in the cabinet.

GARDENS & BALCONIES

Balconies are an outdoor escape, but they can quickly become a home storage compartment that ruins a room’s view.

If you need to keep household items outside, you probably have too much stuff, so take a good hard look at what’s there. Balconies are for chairs, tables, plants and lights; everything else should go somewhere else. If there’s truly nowhere else for your bike or clothes airer, fix them to a wall to increase the available floor space.

In gardens, sheds can be a magnet for junk like disused buggies, old bikes and dismantled shelves, but side returns and other paved areas can also be a hoarders’ paradise. If you have spare building materials from a new patio, planters or fencing, they can go into the newly cleared-out shed. Any leftovers from the look you’ve replaced should immediately leave the premises.

In summary

Decluttering is mostly a matter of ‘deal with it now’ rather than ‘deal with it later’: instead of something going into hiding, could it go into a new home?

If you can’t decide, do a Marie Kondo: hold it in your hands, think of the memories and ask if it sparks joy. If it does, find a place to make it part of your life. If it doesn’t, thank it kindly for its service and say your goodbyes.

If you have a property in County Louth and you’d like to know more about readying your home for viewings, why not get in touch?. You can call us for a chat on   042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie  we’d love to help you put your moving plans into action today.

SEASON’S LETTINGS: YOUR LANDLORD CHRISTMAS CHECKLIST

December 22, 2020 #

There are some interesting parallels between landlords and Santa Claus. For a start, you’re often making a list and checking it twice, only yours is full of to-dos for repairs and maintenance at your rental property. Then there’s deciding if your tenants have been naughty or nice, and whether they look after your property and pay the rent on time.

The comparisons don’t end there and the festive season can be as busy for landlords as it is for Mr Claus, with the colder months bringing chilly calls from tenants when their heating doesn’t work.

If your property is empty, you might be wondering how to get it rented during the winter, or whether you should take the opportunity to make improvements: could updating the presentation and upgrading the fittings help you achieve a higher rent in the new year?

So there’s a fair bit for a landlord to think about over the holidays, and this week’s blog is full of festive tips for managing your empty or occupied rental property this Christmas.

TIDINGS OF COMFORT & JOY

Although renting your property is a business transaction, there’s absolutely no harm in spreading some Christmas cheer to your tenants.

It’s a small thing but a large gesture to drop them a text to wish them well, to see how they’re doing at this most unusual of Christmastimes, and to let them know who to contact in the event of an emergency. If they’ve been particularly excellent tenants then a small gift like a bottle of wine or seasonal treats can generate goodwill that lasts long beyond their consumption.

While you’re messaging, it’s worth checking that everything is running smoothly at your property as well. If any equipment or appliances have shown even the faintest signs of playing up, it’s far better to get onto it now before it becomes more urgent and inconvenient.

Strong landlord-tenant relationships are important and they improve the chances of your tenants staying in your property for a longer term, meaning less time, hassle and costs in finding new people, showing them round, taking up references and arranging inventories.

Really, there is no better time to check in on your tenants than Christmas, and particularly in 2020. 

HOME (OR AWAY) FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

Winter 2020/21 is unlike any other with severe travel restrictions introduced in response to Covid. Ski resorts are snow-covered ghost towns, while jetting off for a Caribbean Christmas will have to wait for another 12 months. But even with fewer people going away, there’s still a chance your tenanted property could be empty over the festive season.

When the government announced tighter restrictions, lots of families brought forward their travel plans to beat the new deadline. And because we don’t know for sure when the latest travel restrictions will end, it’s very possible that people will be gone for much longer than they originally thought. Anyone who’s been missing their family and is able to work from home could take the opportunity to stay away until a new announcement is made.

This means your rental property could be vacant for a number of weeks, which may affect your insurance, so it’s definitely worth checking in with your tenant. They might simply not have thought about contacting you in the rush to get away, and may appreciate the reminder so they can check their own cover and inform their provider.

And if they are away, perhaps a neighbour could be asked to keep an eye on things and given a number to call in case of emergencies.

DECK YOUR HALLS

Is your rental property going to be vacant over the holidays? Empty homes are the perfect canvas for decorating or repairs and, with Christmas one of the quietest periods for lettings, you couldn’t wish for a better time of year to carry out the works.

Is the paintwork looking a bit tired? It can happen after a couple of tenancies and changeovers. Check the walls and woodwork for scuffs, scrapes and chips and treat them to a fresh coat for a gleaming interior to welcome new year viewers. And if you want to be thoroughly on-trend, take a look at 2021’s colour predictions from paint companies including Farrow & Ball, Dulux and Benjamin Moore. 

Vacant periods are also an excellent time to attend to little jobs, and not just the repairs you already know about. Check for door handles that need tightening, taps that drip, and grout or sealant in the kitchen and bathroom that’s either worn away or discoloured.

These are the small things that may go unreported or even unnoticed during someone’s tenancy, but that can and do build up over time. Rarely does a tenant call us to say their grouting isn’t as white as it was, but it will certainly be more noticeable to a viewer with nobody’s Rituals products to hide it.

NEW YEAR REVOLUTIONS

Have you been thinking about how to achieve more rent or fewer vacant periods?

With people staying longer and longer in rented accommodation – average tenancies are now around 4 years – they are paying more and more attention to the quality of presentation and fittings. So is there any equipment at your property that’s either showing its age or that you could upgrade to attract a higher rent?

Being faced with new, stylish and high quality fittings can really swing it for tenants in search of somewhere special, so take a look around for upgrade opportunities.

It could be a big job like replacing a freestanding monster boiler or an old washing machine, or something smaller like a new tap or shower fitting, or even a loo seat that isn’t from 1984 and falling off its hinges.

Little things can often make big impressions and, if your property is vacant, you can carry out improvements without having to work around tenants or their belongings.

WARM WELCOMES

Even with the rental market slowing down at this time of the year, there are still people looking for a new home. In fact, anyone viewing during the cold season is likely to be extremely serious about moving, so you’ll want to make them feel welcome.

The natural greeting from a vacant property in winter can be on the frosty side, so turn the heating on in good time for any viewings. It really is no fun walking around cold and empty interiors – nobody wants to stay when it feels colder inside than out!

Regardless of viewings, having the heating on a timer will keep the chill off and reduce the chances of frozen pipes. Plus you’ll know that everything works… A flustered call from your tenant on the day they move in to discover they have no heating, is not a call you’ll enjoy.

In summary

There is plenty to consider for landlords over Christmas.whether your rental property is vacant or occupied.

Showing your tenants you care, making sure your insurance is valid and taking the opportunity for improvements and maintenance are all a worthwhile use of your time.

If you have a rental property in County Louth and you’d like to talk about making the most of the festive period or of being a landlord, why not get in touch with our team?  Call us for a chat 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie – we’d love to hear from you.

CHRISTMAS PRESENCE: IS YOUR HOME PRIMED FOR THE BOXING DAY BOUNCE?

December 15, 2020 #

There is no doubt that Christmas 2020 will be unlike any other. Holidays abandoned; family gatherings reduced; office parties cancelled. Even a quick festive drink at the local pub is far from a certain date. But while there are many things we can’t do this Christmas, it doesn’t mean that everything will stop.

If you look at the data from Rightmove and Zoopla, Christmas is very much the season to sell your home. Every year, visitor numbers to the portals skyrocket during the festive period, substituting The Wizard of Oz and one last game of charades for scrolling through listings in search of that special somewhere.

Such is the surge in activity that Rightmove and Zoopla are now as synonymous with Christmas as mince pies and mistletoe. Property searches more than double over the holiday season, and the portals have reported increases in activity up to 231%, with the flurry beginning on Boxing Day and continuing beyond New Year.

The first lockdown gave us a sneak peek of what we can expect. In May, Rightmove recorded six-million views in one 24-hour period, its busiest day since launching in 2000. The figures this year could easily surpass that number, with the nation bracing itself for a digital Christmas at home.

Now that bringing the family together from all corners of the country is officially off the cards, many of us will be settling down with Skype for the virtual pulling of crackers and wishing our loved ones season’s greetings. With so much of our time inevitably spent online, we’ll all have carte blanche to bury ourselves in smartphones, tablets and laptops. And without the accompanying guilt, imagine how easy it will be to click onto Rightmove or Zoopla when they’re just one browser tab from the family Zoom call!

If there’s one thing we do know for sure this Christmas, it’s that more people than ever will be at home and online. It all adds up to a boom time for the portals, so if you’re planning to sell your home in the new year, the Boxing Day Bounce could give you the perfect springboard to a successful sale.

Here are our tips to make it work for you.

ALREADY ON THE MARKET?

Perhaps your property is already on the market, and you’re not getting the number of viewings you’d hoped for. Maybe you’ve thought about leaving things as they are until after the holiday season, and then to review your options in January. A few years ago that would have been the best advice, but the Boxing Day Bounce has changed all that, so perhaps it’s time for that review right now.

First things first, how long has your property been on the market? Looking at the response you’ve had so far, is there a common thread in the reactions of people who’ve come to view? Did you start with lots of viewings and high hopes, but have seen little or no interest for several weeks? And does your home sit well with competing properties in a similar price range, or can you see why other listings might get more response than you? These will offer your first clues to guide your next decision.

Now let’s look at your photos. If they’re two seasons old and shouting it from the rooftops that your home has been on the market for months, now is the time to update them – you’ve still got enough days before Christmas to bring your marketing up to date. Potential buyers notice photographs before anything else, so it’s vital to look current and fresh, whatever the time of year.

Ask your agent why they feel you haven’t sold. Although the market isn’t as hyperactive as the summer and early autumn, it certainly hasn’t come to a standstill, so if it feels like little or nothing is happening with your home, it’s worth investigating why. Perhaps you can agree on a new plan of action.

If you’re still not happy with how things stand, you could switch agents now to take full advantage of the Boxing Day Bounce. Going live on December 26th with a new agent, new photos and a shiny ‘new listing’ badge on the portals could breathe new life into your move.

NOT YET ON THE MARKET?

If you’ve got firm and imminent plans to move, but you haven’t yet put your home on the market, you’ve still got just enough time.

The new year has always been a time for renewed optimism, setting goals and fresh starts. For many people, moving home fits perfectly into that category, and everyone has more energy to get things done – including finding somewhere new to live. And let’s not forget that moving home is still one of the things we can do without severe restrictions, making it a funnel for activity.

Because of its reputation for record property searches, lots of homes come onto the market for Boxing Day. With increased activity met with increased competition, make the most of the opportunity by launching with an asking price that will attract the most interest, rather than leaving you behind.

HOSTING FESTIVE VIEWINGS?

Viewings during the holiday season are just like any other time of the year, except for one major caveat: Christmas decorations. Too many can be distracting, but getting the balance right can create an atmosphere unique to the season.

If your style is a medium-size tree and decorating the front door and fireplace, your viewers will delight in your festive cheer. But if you’re about to inflate a Homer ‘Santa’ Simpson and line your pathway with his reindeer, it’s worth rethinking your display this year.

A warm welcome is the key to successful winter viewings. Porch or pathway lights should be on to create an inviting first impression, as well as inside lamps and sidelights for a cosy reception. The heating should be on and, if you happen to have an open fire or wood-burning stove, take the opportunity to have it lit and crackling in time for your viewers’ arrival.

Between December 23rd to 27th, you can form a Christmas Bubble with other households. Being swamped with requests for viewings during that time is unlikely, but if you are hosting or part of a bubble, you should keep those days clear of visitors.

NO VIEWINGS YET, PLEASE?

Whether or not you’re hosting this Christmas, you might just want a break from everything. And fair dos; it’s been a challenging year. Shutting out the world, indulging in a telly binge and knowing that your time is your own is entirely understandable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the Boxing Day Bounce.

Even without viewings, the portals can be working their magic and generating enquiries while you’re enjoying some downtime. And not everyone scrolling through listings will want to visit immediately, but they can certainly log their interest with your agent for when they want to start viewing. So why not use the festive period to increase awareness and interest, and line up any viewing requests for the beginning of January?

Delaying your viewings can also give you valuable time to sort out any odd jobs that need doing before potential buyers visit. It’s the one time of year when you can be on the market, carry out improvements and accept no viewings, all at the same time!

DRIVEBY VIEWINGS

With so many stores announcing they’ll be closed for Boxing Day, and with the general stay-at-home nature of this coming Christmas, it’s highly likely that people will find other excuses to get out of the house. One of those things could well be driveby viewings of homes they’ve found online, so let’s take a quick look at your kerb appeal.

Having a for sale board will help people to identify your house swiftly, particularly when it’s dark. Rake up any fallen leaves and switch the exterior lighting on when twilight hits to extend an inviting glow. Finally, if you’ve got more bags of discarded Christmas wrapping than your bins can handle, find somewhere else to hide them until it’s collection day. Even if people aren’t going to come inside now, you can leave them looking forward to when they can return.

In summary

Once upon a time, the holiday season saw the property market shut down with no one thinking about moving. But times have changed, and now you can benefit from the biggest audience of the year while still enjoying your Christmas and without hosting viewings. With 2020’s additional lockdown ensuring that more people than ever are at home this festive season, we could be set for the busiest sales market at Christmas, ever.

If you’d like to get your home ready for the Boxing Day Bounce, why not get in touch with our team?  Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie so we can help you put your moving plans into action today.

NO VACANCY: KEEPING YOUR RENTAL PROPERTY OCCUPIED

December 9, 2020 #

They say that death and taxes are the only two certainties of life. Well, if you’re a landlord, you might be feeling that empty weeks at your rental property are an inevitable third.

Vacant days are money lost for landlords, and we meet plenty who feel both entirely powerless and resigned to losing valuable rental income. Aside from the financial cost, if voids become a regular occurrence, they can cast a lingering cloud over your tenancies, with the back of your mind never completely free: will your tenant give notice at the earliest opportunity; will you find new ones for a seamless changeover; will you need to carry out repairs or maintenance before new people can move in?

But are void periods, or the lack of them, entirely down to chance and luck, and is there really no way to influence the number of days your property remains empty? While it might be unwise to expect 100% occupation every year, there are undoubtedly actions you can take to reduce the risk of void periods, and even use them to your advantage.

So this week’s article focuses on how to keep your rental property occupied in the long term so that voids don’t become a regular nuisance.

BE IN IT TO WIN IT

To quote Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: “there’s no place like home”. Can you think of anyone who would argue with that phrase? It’s such a powerful and universally resonating statement. Now let’s change it to: “there’s no place like rented accommodation.” It really doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Think about your property’s presentation during viewings and pre-empt any issues. If your tenants have given notice, ask them if anything needs fixing so you can either attend to it now or line up contractors for the day they move out.  An empty and cold home simply isn’t as inviting as one that’s lived in, so give yourself the best chance of re-letting before your tenants leave.

If your property is empty, make sure it’s as inviting as possible. Scuffed paintwork, mouldy grout, or chipped skirting don’t exactly paint a picture of a lovingly cared for home, so repair them as soon as you can. Large piles of mail forming by the front door are also never a good look, so clear them on regular visits if you’re self-managing. And depending on the time of year, either open the window vents to ensure a proper airing or leave the heating on low to avoid a frosty welcome.

You may feel this sounds obvious, but setting the correct price for your property will help it to rent faster, especially when there’s lots of competition. Overpriced homes tend to attract very little interest, and there is no way to communicate that you’re open to offers without making your asking price look pointless. 

A letting agent can help you reach the largest number of people: not only will they have a register of potential tenants, but they can list your property on the national property portals where almost everyone begins their search. Many people never get any further than this before finding a home, so make sure you don’t miss out on the richest source of tenants.

Finally, be pragmatic and look at the bigger picture. In a competitive market with plenty of property available,  accepting an offer that’s €10 less per week than your asking price per week could well turn out better than sticking to your guns and risking a month without tenants.

BOOST YOUR APPEAL

Generation Rent is a thing. The number of tenants is on the rise, and higher house prices have shifted people’s thoughts to long-term renting. Today, people are looking for a home to enjoy for a longer time, rather than a stop-gap before getting on the property ladder. 

The fact that more people are renting is good news for landlords, but it comes with increased hopes and expectations about the quality of the rental homes on offer.  So think about how to make your property more rentable to attract higher calibre tenants. Relatively small items like replacing the hose attachment on the mixer tap with a thermostatic shower unit; upgrading the kitchen by installing a dishwasher; or implementing affordable smart tech like room thermostats can make all the difference in attracting premium tenants.

Many of the upgrades or appliances that you can install cost much less than Ireland’s average monthly rent of €1213. Investing in good-quality items from recognisable brands will not only ensure your property keeps up with the market, but also reduce the need for ongoing repairs and replacements. People tend to give notice as soon as they can for homes where things keep breaking down, so why not help them to stay by ensuring that everything works.

THINK LONG TERM

Make it known to potential tenants that you want them to stay for the long haul, and that your property is somewhere for them to create lasting memories. 

If your tenant feels truly at home while living in your rental property, they are far less likely to start hunting for somewhere new in nine-or-so months. Many tenants have experienced continual rent increases or being given notice every year to the point of feeling they should always keep an eye open for their next option. But if your tenant is a good one, it pays to reduce the possibility of them jumping ship.

The vast majority of tenancy agreements are for 6 or 12 months, which hardly sets the scene for longevity, but there is no limit on the length of a tenancy agreement.  So why not consider an extended contract to give your tenants more comfort while including a break clause in the event of the tenancy not going to plan. And if you already have tenants in your property who you’d like to keep, even if the renewal date is still a long way off, say something now. The sooner you do, the sooner you nip their wandering eyes in the bud.

Most landlords don’t want to have to continually re-let their property, even if they get a slight increase in rent each time, because they know that changes of tenancy often mean periods of vacancy. No matter how conscientious your outgoing tenant, there will inevitably be the signs of wear and tear that come from everyday life, and from moving out. Empty homes are only too good at highlighting even the slightest marks which could make your home look less loved than it is.

As your letting agent, one of our jobs is to help you strike the perfect balance between ensuring your rental income stays in line with the market and keeping your property occupied. A tenant on a long-term contract brings stability and provides you with steady yields, with zero voids and less expense. That may work out far more in your favour than the on-paper attraction of an incremental rent increase every 12 months. 

SHOW YOU CARE

Being a landlord means providing a service, and tenants paying for their experience in your property expect a high-level service in return. They will find it hard to leave if you treat them like your best client.

That starts by being commutative and transparent. If your tenant reports the washing machine isn’t working, respond quickly, even if you can’t send someone out right away. They will appreciate you taking the time to react and feel assured that you’re on top of the situation. 

Don’t skimp on repairs, either; it’s your asset, so it’s in your best interest to keep the property in good shape. Doing so sets the agenda with tenants too, which should encourage them to keep it in excellent condition while they live there. 

Carry out property inspections at least twice a year if you’re self-managing – to check on its condition and ensure that everything is going well for your tenants. You might need to listen to the odd gripe here and there, but tenants will appreciate your efforts. Plus, a tenant who is quick to report issues is someone who will keep your investment in tip-top condition. Someone who takes excellent care of your property and pays the rent on time is a keeper. By showing that you appreciate them, you’ll increase your chances of keeping them in your property for longer. 

In summary

It would be wrong to suggest that you budget for zero empty days at your rental property, but you do have the power to create an environment that attracts the very best tenants. By looking after your property, encouraging your tenants to stay for a long time, and showing them you care about their enjoyment of their home, you’ll give yourself the very best chance of staying ahead of the market and maximising your rental income.

If you’d like to learn more about keeping your rental property occupied and keeping your void periods to a minimum, why not get in touch? You can call us on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie – we’re here to help you make the most of being a landlord.

ROOM AT THE TOP: ADD VALUE & SPACE WITH A LOFT CONVERSION

November 30, 2020 #

Spending so much more time at home this year has left many of us looking at our living spaces in a whole new light. Every spare corner has been pressed into service as a home office, classroom, gym or art studio, often juggling multiple roles at the same time.

 

But one space that remains underused, is the attic. Most homes with a pitched roof have some sort of roof space that can be converted into practical, comfortable and even luxurious rooms, but lofts are often reduced to storing dusty suitcases and Christmas decorations. 

 

If you’re exploring how to add value to your home, converting your loft is a proven and effective route, adding extra bedrooms or spaces to attract more affluent buyers. But a loft conversion can also give you the home you want in the place you’re already settled and love: if your children are happy at school, or you have good friends and neighbours around you, a move might not be right just now.

 

From an estate agency point of view, taking people up into a skilfully converted loft is often the icing on cake at viewings, garnering oohs and ahhs from the mixture of character, light and surprise: there’s something about being in the roof space that makes people smile. 

 

So this week’s article is all about eaves! We take a detailed look at the types of loft conversion you might consider, along with the practicalities, procedures and permissions in taking that empty space at the top of your house to a whole new level

 

WHAT’S YOUR TYPE?

 

Keeping it simple

You don’t have to spend big money on a loft conversion, especially if you’re only looking for a study, playroom or occasional spare bedroom.

 

The simplest and most affordable loft conversion is an open room, where a staircase runs directly up into your roof space without a landing or door. You’ll need to install proper insulation, draft proofing and boarding, with at least one window for natural light.

 

If you do want to add permanent bedrooms, you’ll need to create a landing with doors and windows for each room.

 

Even if you’re not installing a shower room at this point, future buyers might want one. So if you’re going from say, three to five bedrooms, it makes sense to future-proof your home by extending the plumbing to a convenient point, so a shower room can be easily added at a later date.

 

 

Going classic

For more space and comfort, adding a dormer will maximise the usable floor area and transform your attic into a full-height room with plentiful daylight.

 

The dormer can extend across the full width of the house and accommodate either floor-to-ceiling windows or French doors with a Juliet balcony to add more natural light and a bright, airy feel. You may even find yourself looking at impressive views over the neighbourhood.

 

By adding an ensuite shower room you can create a self-contained penthouse-style suite away from the busier part of the house: your own personal sanctuary now, and a big hit with future buyers. Fitting bespoke, built-in wardrobes and storage cupboards within the eaves will utilise every last inch of floor space without the need for bulky furniture.

 

 

Upping the game

Creating a high-end look is often about the materials, fixtures and finishes, but an extra feature to consider is the introduction of a hidden roof terrace. By cutting a section into the existing roofline, or building out onto a flat roof, you’ll be able to enjoy your own private suntrap that’s perfect for morning coffee, or a well-earned sundowner.

 

While a roof terrace can add spectacular outdoor space, it may be trickier gaining planning permission due to the potential for overlooking neighbours’ homes and gardens, and you may be required to install a solid or obscured glass balustrade.

 

Back inside, skylights can be upgraded with electric or solar-powered automatic climate control, while sensors can automate windows, blinds and shutters according to temperature, carbon dioxide levels, rain or even humidity.

 

 

CREATING A LOOK

Even if your roof is tiled, you get a brand new slate with a loft conversion when it comes to interior design. With no rules to break around which original features to highlight and what to modernise, you are free to create exactly the environment you wish.

 

If you’re a fan of clean lines and sharp contemporary details, opt for pristine plastered walls and ceilings, underfloor heating, shadow gap skirting and engineered wood flooring to give you a seamless modernist space. You could even install audio visual cabling and concealed lighting for a cable-free utopia.

 

For something more cosy, rustic or even industrial, leave some of the original building fabric exposed – like brick walls and roof timbers – to inject warmth and raw energy. These can be paired with surface-mounted wiring in galvanised conduit, school-style column radiators, and reclaimed old floorboards.

 

 

 

WHAT’S THE PROCESS?

Loft conversions generally qualify as permitted development if the work meets certain guidelines, making them fairly hassle-free in terms of paperwork. You may not need planning permission if:

 

the amount of internal space being created is within the additional volume limits (40 m3 for terraced houses; 50m3for semi-detached and detached);

 

the building materials used are similar in appearance to the existing house, and;

 

the alterations don’t extend beyond the original roofline that faces the road, nor higher than the top of the roof. (This effectively means that only skylights can be installed at the front, with dormers confined to the rear.)

 

Permitted development rights don’t apply to conservation areas, and you’ll definitely need planning permission to add a terrace, or to extend higher than the roof. You’ll normally have more flexibility at the back of the house where you won’t affect the street scene.

 

Whether or not planning permission is required, building regulations approval is mandatory. This covers the stability of the structure, the safe design of the stairs, the strength of the new floor, a means of escape in case of fire, and adequate sound insulation.

 

If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house, or in an apartment, you will probably need to issue a Party Wall Act notice to tell your neighbour(s) about the proposed work, and you may need to improve the sound insulation to any shared walls.

 

You also need to consider protected species when planning a loft conversion, since work on a loft can affect, wait for it, bats. If you suspect bats are using your roof space, you may need a specialist survey and to incorporate a bat roost into your design.

 

This might sound like a lot, but the good news is that experienced professionals, from architects and designers to specialist loft conversion companies, can handle much of the application and permission process.

 

 

CHOOSING CONTRACTORS

Nothing gives as much comfort as a good recommendation, so ask among your friends, family and colleagues. Local social media groups on platforms like Facebook and NextDoor can also be excellent sources, and if you’ve seen neighbouring homes with converted lofts, either knock on their door or leave them a note to ask if they’d recommend their contractor.

 

For a one-stop solution, specialist loft conversion companies will offer all the services you need in a single package using off-the-shelf designs and standard components. This could well deliver everything you need with a single point of contact to free you from juggling multiple tradespeople.

 

If you’re looking for a bespoke design, you’ll need to work with an architect or designer, as well as a structural engineer and a main contractor. A good tip is to look for a contractor with access to electricians, plumbers, plasterers and decorators, otherwise you’ll need to find and employ them as well.

 

 

TIMESCALE & DISRUPTION

The building works in loft conversions generally take around 4-6 weeks and you can minimise disruption by having the majority of the work completed from the outside, accessed by external scaffolding. The internal staircase can be fitted in the final week or so, and only then will builders need to walk through your house.

 

Try to make all your design choices before building work starts on site. Made-to-order items, like a staircase or bespoke windows, can take some time to produce and cause delays if they’re not ordered promptly. An experienced architect or contractor can help you make decisions in good time about any bespoke or special-order items.

 

Make sure to establish the working hours from the outset. Try to avoid early starts, late nights and weekend working, and let your neighbours know when to expect noise and deliveries. Tell your builders what areas are ‘off limits’ and whether you have children or pets that mustn’t be let out – cats in particular do love a rooftop wander!

 

Summer is a popular choice for building works, due to the better weather and longer daylight hours, but your contractor may have greater availability and lower prices during the winter months. Consider what timing is best for you – maybe you can go away to avoid the worst of the noise and disruption? – and try to be flexible to get the best deal from your builder.

 

 

Summary

Converting your loft and creating extra rooms at the top of your house is an exciting way to increase and design your living space. You’ll have more room to spread out, you can stay in the neighbourhood you love, and you can add extra value to your home into the bargain: instant gratification and long term benefits all rolled into one.

 

As with any successful project, proper planning is the key. Use experienced professionals to help you make the right decisions, from initial design, to gaining the relevant permissions to choosing fittings. And feel free to ask your estate agent about what buyers are looking for to see if you can incorporate those qualities into your design.

If you’d like to discuss how to optimise the value of your home with a loft conversion or any other improvements, why not get in touch? You can call us on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie – we’d love to hear from you.

5 Home Improvement Ideas That Cost Under €100

October 20, 2020 #

If lockdown taught us anything, it’s that all our homes could do with a bit of TLC, and many of us discovered that we can actually make a big difference to our space with very little effort.

So if you still have some home goals in mind, here are a few simple, fast and low cost tricks to improve your pad.  

1. Front door: the critical first impression of any home. And if you’re thinking of selling, your front door is absolutely critical.

Your front door sets the vibe for your entire home and yet most of us completely ignore and neglect it, and fail to notice when it needs a bit of a sprucing up.

A weekend painting project awaits… Not sure what colour to go for? Remember that the traditional colours of black, red and grey never let you down. Every year, magazines tell us to go for the colour of the moment, but beware fads: mind green looks cold in winter, and orange soon starts to jar once autumn leaves have fallen.

Before you start, don’t forget to prepare the dfoor, otherwise you’ll soon be looking at cracked paintwork.

Cost: €60 will cover paint, brushes & sandpaper

2. Give your kitchen a facelift

Still on the painting vibe, the kitchen is the most important room in any house, so give it a well deserved make over with freshly painted cabinets. Caveat: not all kitchen doors can be painted, so do your homework first.

Painting the doors will certainly take more than a weekend, but it will be so worth it. Navy blue is the big look at the moment – but it will work best in a bright space. A dark kitchen will look even darker if you paint everything a dark colour. In that case, a mid smoky grey might be a safer option.

It’s definitely worth testing a few options – you’ll want the doors to go well with the walls, the floor and any tiling on the splashback.

Another great way to refresh the kitchen is to change the door handles and install some under cabinet lighting.

Paint option: €100 for paint and materials

Handles: €50 – €100 depending on quantity and quality

3. Nature calls 

Research tells us that having plants in the home massively improves the air of a space as well as our mental wellbeing from sharing our space with plants. So why not inject some outdoors into your home with some plant therapy? Trick is to get advise about what works and where – what plants like a sunny windowsill and what ones like a quiet corner?

Be sure to buy the correct plant pot – ideally not one with a hole in the bottom that will leak onto the floor or carpet.

Also, a more mature plant is less likely to die, and will also look the business.

Most plants are pretty low maintenance – but don’t be completely neglectful either. Check out what care they need. Dying or dead plans add nothing to a home!

Cost: €50

4. Skip to the loo 

How badly do we treat our bathroom? We leave wet towels on its floor, empty toilet rolls on top of the cistern, and what about all those empty shampoo bottles on the floor of the shower!

If you even stand in the bathroom and look around, you’ll be amazed what little jobs you can see that need doing.

Here are a few bugbears straightened out:

5. Light up your life

If you’ve been living your life under a single ceiling light, then you’ll definitely appreciate a bit of focus lighting.

Lighting massively impacts our impression of a room. It’s amazing how much a small lamp or floor lamp will soften a room, as well as give light to a focus space like beside an armchair or a bedside table, for reading or just relaxing in softer light.

Big tip here: if you have 2 bedside tables / lockers, invest in 2 matching lamps. You can buy a cute lamp in Dunnes stores for €25. A floorlamp is a great way to use focus lighting without having somewhere to sit it. Cost: €25 – €100

House Viewings – The 8 top tips for viewing property

September 25, 2020 #
Sun setting over a traditional British neighbourhood. Lens flare and warm colours to give a homely effect.

Whether you’re a seasoned house hunter or a first timer, there are always important things to remember when viewing. Here are the top 8 things, according to expert Joanne Lavelle, that you should remember when you’re viewing a property. 

  1. Get to know the agent! They are usually full of info on the house, so get as much information as you can from the agent. I recommend not writing notes during the viewing, as you’ll be concentrating more on writing your notes and less on the property.
  2. If it’s an older property, it’s a good idea to ask whether any surveys have been carried out and whether the agent knows of any structural issues. Also, ask whether the property was rewired or replumbed in recent years.
  3. Ask for a BER cert and if the BER is D or lower, ask the agent why.
  4. Ask the agent what is included in the property. Usually, anything integrated (eg fitted fridge) is included, however it’s good to clarify early on, to prepare for later expenditure.
  5. Heating is critical – ask if you can turn the heating on while you’re there, and see if the radiators heat up. If it’s oil or gas heating, ask about the boiler’s service history.
  6. If you’re looking for a house to grow into, see if there is space either in the garden to extend or in the attic to convert it. But it’s important to as about the planning history of the house and whether any previous owners have extended.
  7. You’re not only considering a home but also a neighbourhood: the agent may know something about the neighbours, so it’s worth asking. Also, take a little peak at neighbours’ gardens as that will tell a lot!
  8. Working from home? Be sure to ask about and test the local wifi!

Property Expert Joanne Lavelle gives top advice to House Sellers

September 25, 2020 #

Are you preparing your house for sale? Here are the 6 most important things you need to do NOW.

Joanne explains: We want to be able to show your house looking its best. Buyers don’t want to be distracted by a messy laundry room or a smelly loo! So be ready for your viewings. A good looking house will always out-perform one that’s not been properly prepared for sale.

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