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RENTAL UPGRADES: FIVE IMPROVEMENTS TO INCREASE YOUR INCOME

April 13, 2021 #

The rental market has grown up. Tenancies are running for longer, and with stays of four or more years increasingly common, tenants have higher expectations around the place they’re willing to call home.

This spells good news for landlords because those higher expectations come with a willingness to pay a higher rent. More than that, the right improvements will also increase the value of your property, giving you precious equity to finance and expand your portfolio.

But which improvements make the most difference?

There’s a fine balance to strike between spending too little, spending too much, and spending where it counts. The key is to create a contemporary and timeless home that’s durable and popular to give you wide and long-lasting appeal with minimal maintenance and repairs.

When we’re out on viewings, we see exactly what attracts people and excites them about their next home, and there’s no doubt that investing in presentation is rewarded in the quality of tenant and the rent achieved. If you’re considering making upgrades to your rental property, call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie for some expert advice on getting it right.

But for now, let’s take a look at the improvements that will increase your income, attract high quality tenants and protect the value of your property.

PAINT

From the second the front door opens, the condition of the walls will be staring your viewers in the face, creating their first and immediate impression of your property.

Scuffed walls look dingy and, despite being entirely cosmetic, have a deeply negative impact on viewings. On the other hand, a fresh coat of paint works wonders in any room and elevates everything around it, making it remarkably good value.

Although brilliant white is undeniably bright and a great reflector of light, some tenants find it a bit cold. It’s also a magnet for marks! Choose an off-white, soft grey or other classic neutral to give the walls a welcoming hue, with matt white on the ceilings, and white satin or eggshell for the woodwork.

KITCHENS

You’ll be pleased to know that not every kitchen upgrade means ripping out the old one and starting again. You can replace doors, handles, splashbacks or worktops for an instant improvement, so look carefully at whether the whole thing really needs to go.

Whether you’re choosing a total refit or replacing selected elements, follow these rules for an enduring, impressive and low-maintenance kitchen:

The presence and quality of appliances attracts more scrutiny than it used to: a dishwasher is no longer seen as a luxury item; an old-fashioned electric hot plate makes cooking seem like a chore; and a washing machine with a small load capacity means continual washday blues.

Investing in well-respected and reliable mid-range brands like Bosch, AEG and Neff is a visible demonstration of your commitment to quality: they make living in your property more enjoyable and tenants love them. You’ll also have long-lasting appliances that need less maintenance and ongoing expenditure, which means less hassle all round.

FLOORS

Floors take a real battering. Everyone walks all over them; furniture sits and moves about on them; bags, suitcases, bikes, strollers and pets all take their toll.

While carpets are soft to walk on, they can become worn and accumulate lines of dust at the bottom of doors, or imprints from previous furniture. Cheap laminate can look good when it’s fitted, but often peels at the edges, lifts at the joins and chips very easily. All this can leave your property looking unkempt and uninviting, negatively impacting your rent.

Engineered wood floors in living areas, halls and bedrooms look smart, are hard-wearing and can make your property look bigger when laid throughout. With a top surface of real wood, they’re a more authentic and luxurious alternative to laminate, but don’t come with the price tag of solid planks or parquet. They also last longer and can be sanded down when the surface becomes worn, giving you many years of service.

Medium oak is a classic, safe choice that will go with most people’s furniture: it looks great with pretty much anything and your tenants can accessorise with their own choice of rug for some underfoot comfort. If your property is particularly bright, you could add some drama with a darker wood like walnut. Pale woods like birch and maple reflect the light, but they can be more susceptible to marks as well as showing dirt and dust in the joins.

BATHROOMS

Tenants regularly ask us if they can test the water pressure on viewings, so a powerful thermostatic shower is a priority – dribbling hoses with fluctuating temperatures no longer cut it. People want an invigorating shower experience to start their day, so put them in a good mood every morning, rather than looking for a new place to live.

If your bathroom needs replacing, a plain white modern suite, warmed by grey floor and wall tiles, will provide a timeless contemporary style with universal appeal. Don’t skimp on the taps – you’ll soon be replacing parts if you go for the cheapest option, and the costs of repairs will eliminate your initial savings. Choose metal finishes like chrome, brushed steel and nickel: they never go out of style and they’re easier to maintain than taps with coloured lacquers.

Storage is vital to avoid an ocean of products piling up, gathering dust and making life difficult. The ideal solution is a vanity unit with a cupboard or drawers below the washbasin, and a mirrored cabinet above.

GARDENS

A modern, inviting and low-maintenance outdoor space is a definite winner, even more so since Covid-19 made getting outside feel like a privilege.

You don’t need to recreate the Chelsea Flower Show: in fact, keeping it simple and manageable will win you fans without presenting an overwhelming display of pruning duties. No matter how much they enjoy being outdoors, not every tenant is an expert gardener.

A patio or deck with a paved or timber surface provides a year-round usable space that’s easy to keep clean and looks way better than raw cement. Paired with exterior lighting, you’re effectively giving your tenants another room, day and night, for which they’ll happily pay.

Add a few pots planted with spring and summer perennials that bloom again every year, and your tenants will have a colourful, seasonal space where they only need to add water (and much of that is taken care of by our national climate!)

In summary

With proper execution, making improvements to your rental property will increase your income, attract higher quality tenants, reduce void periods and future-proof your property’s value. There’s no one-size-fits-all amount when it comes to budget, but we’re here to help you invest in the things that really matter.

Are you a landlord with a property to rent in County Louth? If you’d like to increase your income while keeping your costs under control, why not get in touch? Call us on 042 933 2482 or drop us a line at  lettings@kelwaylaw.co.uk– we’ll help you set the right budget and do the right thing to attract the best tenant and rent.

GARDEN REVIVALS: SIMPLE & INSTANT TIPS TO BE READY FOR SPRING VIEWINGS

April 5, 2021 #

The weather may be confusing, but one thing is for sure: Spring is springing.

One of the biggest effects of lockdown on the 2020 property market was a massive surge of interest among buyers for gardens and balconies, and not just from green-fingered enthusiasts. People who’d never given gardens a second thought were suddenly sold on the value of being outside at home, and the demand went through the roof.

That blooming market has continued this year, with gardens and balconies still noticeably high priorities for buyers, so it’s really worth making the most of your outdoor space to maximise its value and amplify interest in your home.

Colourful spring flowers look wonderful in photographs and on viewings. From window boxes inviting people to view, to fully-planted borders encouraging them to stay, they bring a natural vibrancy that boosts any image or visit. Even if you didn’t plant any bulbs last year, you’ll see it’s not too late to have an enchanting display to captivate every viewer.

HEALTHY LAWNS

Grass rarely looks great after winter, but with increased sunshine encouraging active growth, it’s time for some TLC and dusting off that hibernating mower.

Wait for a few dry days in the forecast, then start with a trim on the highest setting when the ground is firm and free of dew: not only better for the grass and your mower, it’ll save you churning the soil into mud with the mower’s wheels.

Most lawns suit a length of 2-4cm, but where there’s lots of wear and tear or footfall, go a little longer at around 5cm. For very shady areas, up it to 7cm. Remember that grass is a plant and needs its blades working to photosynthesise, so don’t go scalping it!

Moss, dead grass and other debris can impede healthy growth, so remove them with a spring-tine rake. Use a garden fork or hollow-tined aerator to reduce waterlogging and improve drainage, or go for the hands-free option with a pair of aerating shoes.

Finish with a bit of top dressing and feed. With all-in-one products like Miracle-Gro Evergreen 4 in 1, you can fertilise the grass while treating weeds and moss.

PATIOS AND BALCONIES

It’s incredible how fast sludgy green growth like moss and algae can settle over winter on paving, decking and walls, but there are some easy and eco-friendly ways to tackle the job.

A jet washer will shift the weeds and muck. Not only highly effective, they’re incredibly satisfying to use – simply hook up to your water supply and get blasting! Use the highest setting on pavers and concrete to watch the dirt slide off like butter, while a lower setting for timber decking or walls with paint or render will avoid damaging the surface.

No outdoor tap? No problem! Widely-available organic cleaners like Algon are free of nasty chemicals, making them safe for pets and wildlife. They restore the natural colour of virtually any surface with no need to scrub or rinse: just apply with a sprayer, soft garden broom or paintbrush on a dry day, then walk away!

BUYING YOUR BLOOMS

This year’s fashionable planting trends are very much naturalistic and concentrate on supporting pollinators, but don’t panic if you’re a complete novice. You can find ready-made, expert-curated combinations to suit any setting, making it very hard to go wrong.

Websites like Suttons, Woolmans and J Parkers are great places to start and have so much to choose from. They mainly sell ‘plug plants’, which can be delivered right through your letterbox by the postman: equally perfect for containers or for spaces in the ground left by anything that didn’t quite make it through winter.

Many supermarkets have also expanded their plant and garden offerings this year, and you can buy a wide selection of tulips, narcissi and even bluebells when stocking up on your pantry essentials.

To stay on-trend through summer and autumn, mix in some salvias with your choice of spring blooms: cheap to buy, low on maintenance and varied in colour, there’s one for every taste, and they’ll flower through summer and autumn.

SMART PLANTING

Super-organised gardeners will have been out planting their bulbs last autumn, but you can still get beautiful results with pre-planted or ‘in the green’ bulbs.

A great trick to make your shop-bought bulbs go further is to separate them for planting. They’ll be potted close together in a bundle of competing roots, but by teasing them gently apart with your fingers, then spacing them out in your beds, you’ll see more of the individual blooms across a larger area.

Your bulbs will also perform much better as their roots begin to spread, soaking up all the nutrition and water they need in their spacious new home.

CONTAINER GARDENING

You don’t need a huge garden – or even a small one – to bring in the spring: flowers still look fabulous in pots, boxes and baskets. A bright selection of bulbs and bedders by your front door – or on your window sills – makes a cheery welcome for anyone viewing your home, either in person or online.

Classics like tulips and narcissi look brilliant when combined in containers, while primroses are another favourite at this time of year. The perfect companion for bulbs, they’ll naturalise too, giving you new plants year on year. Gorgeous in pots, there’s a reason they’re such eternal garden stalwarts.

For hanging baskets, try mixing fuchsias, petunias and lobelias. Keep them watered, and you’ll be rewarded with a glorious eye-level display of interest, colour and form.

In summary

A spring clean and some clever planting will give you immediate seasonal colour that buyers will love and that you can enjoy right now. There’s no time like the present, so go outside, soak up some vitamin D and get your hands in some soil: it’s good for the soul, and great for your sale!

If you have a property in County Louth and you’re making plans to sell, we’d love to help you get your seasonal presentation just right. Get in touch today on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie , and let’s work together to put the spring into your move.

RENT ARREARS: FINDING A BALANCE BETWEEN COMPASSION AND COLLECTION

March 30, 2021 #

Although rent arrears have been a hot topic during the pandemic, it’s far from being a new subject. That said, if the discussion has taught us anything in the last year, it’s that anyone can be affected by economic events: no-one is immune, however high their income.

Most tenancies run their course without arrears building up, but that means landlords and tenants have little experience to draw on when payments fall behind. Regardless of how and why they happen, arrears can be a source of friction and provoke all sorts of feelings and emotions around the possible repercussions.

For a self-managing landlord, it’s vital to keep a level head when discussing arrears with your tenants. That might be challenging when their financial circumstances impact your own, but it’s essential to avoid communication breaking down.

If you’re unsure of how to approach any rent arrears at your rental property, you’re welcome to get in touch. Part of a managing agent’s role is to keep things polite and professional before they get too personal, which makes us well versed in acting as a cushion between emotions. So if you’d like some words of wisdom, or you’d like someone to handle things on your behalf, call us on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie.

Money can be a touchy subject, but as you’ll discover in this week’s article, there are many ways to keep the conversation going without sinking into acrimony or legal proceedings.

GET THE FULL STORY

You’d be right in feeling you shouldn’t have to chase your tenants about their arrears, but your tenants could well be terrified of contacting you. They might feel poorly equipped for an unpleasant or difficult discussion, and they may even be hugely embarrassed.

The key is to make it clear that you acknowledge whatever predicament your tenants find themselves in and that you’d like to properly understand what’s happening in their lives to find the most practical solution.

Feeling listened to will allow your tenants to open up and be completely straight with you while concentrating on the facts, and getting a clear and detailed picture will help you keep a calmer disposition.

FIND QUICK FIXES

Your tenants may have simply hit a temporary glitch, so the first question to ask is: what can they pay right now? By exploring options beyond all-or-nothing, you could agree on a short period of reduced rent, with the arrears spread across future payments over a set number of months.

You could also help your tenants to identify potential savings in their other outgoings to use towards their rent. Just as lenders ask borrowers to write down all their monthly expenses, you can invite your tenants to do the same. Having it all laid out in front of them may open their eyes to ways of reducing their costs.

Daily habits and direct debits can mount up without us realising. It’s not hard to clock up hundreds of pounds per month on coffees to go, club memberships or entertainment subscriptions: pressing pause for a while could help your tenants make a swift and significant dent in their arrears.

If they have other debts attracting interest, would they be better off by transferring their balance to a 0% card? Not everyone keeps on top of current rates, and the combination of reduced payments and savings on interest could put your tenants in a better financial position, freeing up money to catch up on their rent.

BORROWING & BENEFITS

If you have a longstanding relationship and your tenants have been exemplary until now, you may well want to keep them, which is as good a motivator as any for helping them to find a solution.

Could they borrow from a family member or friend to clear their arrears? Coming from an understanding source, it will almost certainly be the cheapest option and probably the most flexible.

If your tenants still have an income and they’re not heavily in debt, a personal loan from a bank might provide an appropriate answer, particularly with low interest rates. Unlike landlords, lenders are designed for borrowers to split their payments into small amounts over many years, and the cushion of an extended repayment period could allow your tenants to catch up on their rent immediately without having to find all the money upfront.

If the situation is more drastic and your tenants have lost their income, point them in the direction of the Citizens Advice Bureau. They should be actively encouraged to find out whether they are entitled to any support and when it will be available to them.

CONTACT GUARANTORS

If a guarantor was named on the tenancy agreement, you can approach them for payment.

You’re entitled to write to the guarantor as soon as the rent falls behind, but most tenants would prefer to find a solution directly with their landlord if at all possible, and they’ll appreciate your attempts at working something out with them first. That’s because guarantors are very often parents, and tenants can experience a level of embarrassment in feeling they still need to be rescued by mum and dad.

Nonetheless, the whole reason for having a guarantor is to provide a safeguard in the event of your tenants not being able to pay their rent. Involving the guarantor will open up another path to clearing the arrears and having the rent paid on time until your tenants’ financial position improves.

LET YOUR TENANT GO

Most tenants don’t voluntarily choose to stop paying their rent. They could be suffering severe financial hardship from whatever circumstances they find themselves in, and their rental contract might be adding to the problem. Sometimes, something has to give.

With or without eviction bans, you could simply let your tenants move out to save them accruing any more arrears. If they have family or friends they can stay with, the money they save on bills and rent will allow them to repay you faster and could solve three problems in one:

you prevent the arrears building up any further;

you provide a route for your tenants to repay what they owe;

you get to find a new tenant, so your rental property can produce income again.

The exact wording and requirements of tenancy agreements are there to hold everyone to their responsibilities, but there are occasions when letting go can provide a more practical answer.

In summary

There’s no doubt that dealing with rent arrears can be a challenge. While it might be little financial comfort, you can be sure your tenants will be just as uncomfortable having so much uncertainty hanging over their lives as well.

Peace of mind comes from staying on top of problems when they arise, rather than letting them fester. Some self-managing landlords cope with that perfectly well and have enough knowledge and confidence to be unphased by difficult discussions with tenants. Others prefer a quieter life, opting for a managing agent’s experience and capacity to act on their behalf.

Either option is fine, but if you’d like to explore having your rental property looked after for you, or you’ve got any questions about being a landlord, you’re welcome to get in touch. Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie – we’re here to make your life easy.

WHAT DO BUYERS WANT? FIVE FUNDAMENTAL FACTORS THAT TURN VIEWINGS INTO SALES

March 22, 2021 #

We’ve all had that sense of all-consuming joy when finding the home of our dreams, and what a feeling it is! Excitement, anticipation and nerves all rolled into a single moment, and much of it unquantifiable.

There’s a lot that goes into a decision to buy, from emotional, financial and intellectual reasons to a healthy dose of gut-feeling. And while practical considerations like size, price and fittings certainly play their part, they all take a back seat to the most influential factor of all: how a home feels. Is it ‘the one’?

The feeling goes way beyond the phrase ‘location location location’ because people live in all sorts of places for all kinds of reasons, many of them non-negotiable. A school’s catchment area; a particular station for a quick commute; moving closer to a family member; being in a specific street or neighbourhood: these create the framework for many property searches.

But as soon as viewings begin, it’s the physical experience of each home that comes into play. Much of that includes condition and character, but there are other, less obvious ways of helping a buyer to say yes to the only question that really matters: “Could I be happy here?”

It’s never too early to talk about how to get your home ready to sell, so do get in touch if you’re not yet sure where to start. Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie – let us know what you’re thinking, and we’ll help in any way we can.

Meanwhile, let’s look at how you can help a buyer to see your current home as their next one.

VISIBLE FLOOR SPACE

When it comes to pure bang for your buck, what really counts is visible floor space. A plan shows the technical details, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s only when standing inside your home that someone will get the sense of how big – or small – it feels in person.

To optimise your photos and viewings, it’s essential to factor in movement and sight-lines. When we bring someone to see your home, there’ll be at least two people, possibly three, and maybe even a whole family walking around at the same time, so if there are obstacles to seeing an entire room, you’ll be giving the sense of a lack of space.

If a buyer needs to shuffle around furniture or there’s nowhere to move inside a room, there’s probably too much in it to give you the best chance of selling. Try changing the position of a couch or coffee table, or removing an armchair or footstool: small changes like these can dramatically improve your photographs and transform reactions on viewings.

Aside from furniture, think about what else is in the room. Do you have piles of magazines, books or vinyl on the floor? Their presence can create a sense of warmth and comfort, but they should either go onto shelves – or put away out of sight – for the time your home is on the market.

There’s a fine line between a room being emptied of clutter and a room feeling cold and bare, and we’ll help you strike the perfect balance.

FUNCTIONALITY & PURPOSE

Interior stylists and designers often cry: “there’s nothing worse than a spare room.” They’re right, and when a room doesn’t have a function, its value is reduced. Not every buyer can visualise a desk, bookshelves, easy chair and elegantly-painted walls.

You’ve probably seen pictures of show homes or maybe even visited some. House-builders know that standing people inside a series of empty rooms – or among building materials – simply doesn’t portray the lifestyle available. The same is true for lived-in homes.

Spare rooms can develop over time and you can get so used to them that you no longer notice. Perhaps you’ve stopped using a bedroom since a family member moved out, or maybe you never occupied one as intended. It’s completely normal, but once a room starts collecting boxes or junk, its purpose and functionality become unclear.

Furnishings and accessories enhance a room and highlight its features. Think of a reading chair in a bay window, a hearth rug in front of a fireplace, or even books on shelves: you won’t be leaving any of them behind, but they show purpose, function and possibility.

Find another home for the boxes, and if you have an empty room, look at relocating furnishings or accessories from elsewhere. Perhaps you can create a study, reading room or workspace to add extra purpose and maximise your home’s appeal.

POTENTIAL (SOMETIMES)

The P-word can be highly potent, and we often meet buyers who are willing – and even hoping – to improve, extend or upgrade a home. Potential can be a true enabler of interest, widening your market beyond the limits of your home’s current accommodation or offer. But that potential needs to be qualified.

Simply declaring that an extension could provide another two bedrooms and an extra bathroom isn’t necessarily enough: you need to demonstrate how possible and probable it is. By making it simple for a viewer to visualise themselves in that new space and how it could work for them, you’ll add credibility, excitement and value.

Sometimes, it’s easy. A similar extension or remodelling that your home could take might have been completed nearby, with photos that show the finished result.

Otherwise, and if your home has the potential for a unique or particular expansion, get some plans drawn up by an architect. Going one step further still, gaining full planning consent to carry out the works will give a buyer complete certainty and help you achieve a higher price.

A CLEAR PROPOSITION

Imagine going to view a total wreck; somewhere that’s not been updated for decades and where everything clearly needs doing. Now think of a home where everything is perfect and where tons of love has gone into creating a wonderful, beautiful place to live.

These two extremes of condition and presentation share one common quality: clarity. You have the sense that you know exactly what you’re getting and what you’re taking on: it’s either a real fixer-upper or a ready-made home.

In the middle are the halfway-houses that, in some way, throw in doubts, and often from unfinished projects. Maybe you’ve removed all the wallpaper from a room and haven’t yet redecorated, leaving the old, unsightly plasterwork exposed. Perhaps you replaced your kitchen or bathroom fittings but never completed the tiling, leaving your renovations – and financial investment – looking less attractive and even less valuable.

This lack of clarity isn’t limited to improvements; it can also affect maintenance and repairs. You could have fixed a leak, but leaving a historic water stain on a ceiling or wall can raise questions over potential plumbing, roof or damp problems. Or that peeling paint on your window frames can leave them looking in need of replacement, rather than simply a sanding and fresh coat.

Relatively small issues like these can negatively affect a buyer’s thoughts about your home. So finish what you’ve started, and make good anything that’s creating a falsely negative impression.

FUTURE SALEABILITY

People like to feel comfortable that the property they’re thinking of buying is somewhere they’ll be able to sell. Not every home is a forever home, and a buyer could be looking at yours as a stepping stone to their future goals. In short, nobody wants to get stuck.

Are there any unsaleable properties? Not really, but some can look unpopular, and that’s often down to how long they’ve been on the market. With so much information readily available on the national portals, from when a property first came on the market to all its subsequent price reductions, a list of evidence soon begins to build.

Perception is hugely important. Multiple price reductions don’t always look like a bargain to buyers; more often, they suggest a property that nobody wants and can lose the perfect new owner before they even view. We don’t always get to find out why someone chooses not to call, but we do know that when homes sit on the market, they don’t become more attractive.

If you’re ever tempted to try a higher price when you first put your home up for sale, don’t let it drag on: you’ll know within a couple of weeks whether it was the right decision. If you get no interest at all – or if everyone who views says your home is too expensive – you’ll know what you need to do.

And if your home has been on the market for some time, you could well be better off with an altogether new strategy. As well as providing a fresh perspective and energy, switching agents will give you an automatic reset on the property portals, restoring that valuable “new listing” status for an invigorating restart.

In summary

Much of someone’s decision to buy is outside your control, but you can have a considerable influence through the viewing experience you create. By removing potential obstacles and objections and replacing them with clarity and credibility, you make it easy for a buyer to see your home as the most exciting and enticing choice.

Would you like to maximise the saleability and attraction of your home? If you have a property to sell in County Louth, we’d love to show you how we can help. Call for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie– there’s a lot to do when moving home, so let’s get talking soon.

PROOF POSITIVE: 5 SIMPLE SECRETS TO MAKE YOUR INVENTORY WATERTIGHT

March 15, 2021 #

Not every inventory ends up providing the protection that landlords expect. There are plenty of cases where the language used – and the style adopted – have caused more confusion and doubt over disputes, which for a landlord will generally mean a reduced or refused claim.

Inventories are essential to have complete clarity over the condition and contents of your rental property: without correct preparation, you’ll not only risk a costly dispute, but you’ll also sow the seeds of worry in your tenants. The more documentation you have that you can agree on from the outset, the more professional you’ll look as a landlord and the more comfortable your tenants will feel.

Whether you’re preparing a paper or digital inventory, you must ensure it’s signed off by you (or your managing agent) and your tenants. But as you’ll discover below, there’s more to it than that.

If you own a rental property in County Louth and you’d like to know more about best practice when preparing inventories, do get in touch. Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie– you’ll always find an expert ear happy to guide you.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at how you can make your inventory the best it can be to give you, your property and your tenants maximum protection.

BEYOND BOX-TICKING

Some landlords still rely on checklist-style inventories, which simply aren’t enough to reflect the contents of a property accurately. More than that, they’re completely useless when it comes to being clear about the condition of every fixture, fitting and, where supplied, furnishing.

We can’t stress enough that inventories are so much more than box-ticking exercises, and a correctly prepared report can easily run to 30+ pages – more if your property is furnished. There’s a lot of time involved in writing down every last detail, but even if you have complete confidence and trust in your tenants, it’s in both your best interests to go deep. So if your inventory is just a few pages long, it’s unlikely to be of any use in a dispute.

That’s why an inventory clerk is so invaluable. Not only do they save you the time and hassle of detailing every last thing yourself, but they’re also a third party with no emotional or financial attachment to the property. They’re guided only by what they see, and their expertise and independence give their inventories an extra layer of credibility, priceless if you end up in arbitration or the courts.

Remember: it’s your responsibility as a landlord to prove that any damages or repair costs are down to your tenants.

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

Problems with disputes can often come down to the language used in the inventory. It’s not because they’re written in French or Norwegian, but because they use emotive and subjective words.

One example is the word lovely, which, in property terms, is best confined to an estate agent’s description of a charming location. It really shouldn’t form part of how you describe the contents or condition of anything in your property.

Stick to words commonly used when grading an object’s condition: new, perfect, excellent, very good, good. Hopefully, you’ll have no cause to use below average, poor or unusable, but if you do, you’re best off fixing anything in that category for the sake of starting your tenancy on the right foot.

Emotive language may well come from your pride in your property and generally appears when self-managing landlords write their own inventory. It’s completely understandable, but it’s no help to you in the event of a dispute. Keep it neutral and objective.

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAIL

Inventories aren’t just about listing objects; they’re about giving an accurate picture of your property’s condition and presentation when you hand over the keys to your tenants. So as well as stating everything that’s there, you also need to say what isn’t.

Minor scuffs that don’t yet warrant any remedial works should be mentioned along with exactly where they are on a wall or paintwork. The same goes for marks on a carpet or floor that aren’t serious but are nonetheless visible: be very clear about exactly where they are.  And when it comes to stains, whether relatively unobtrusive or relatively obvious, make sure to measure them as well as mention them, and to state their exact location.

Now let’s look at things that aren’t there. Accidents happen, and a couple of more common mishaps are irons on floors and saucepans on worktops. So it’s really worth mentioning that there are no burn marks: not just to state the truth, but to plant the seed in the minds of your tenants to be mindful of where they leave hot objects.

Where bathrooms and kitchens are free of mould and limescale, be sure to mention that too. Again, it’s a clear statement that everything is looking good and provides a gentle reminder for your tenants to keep their eyes peeled.

By being ultra-specific and going into detail, you minimise the potential for uncertainty in the future.

PHOTOGRAPH EVERYTHING

You can never have too many pictures.

One of the biggest mistakes landlords make is taking a single photograph of each room, often because they see nothing to mention on the inventory—a quick note that everything’s fine, and then onto the next room.

How can you take a photo of a scuff mark that isn’t there, or damage that doesn’t exist, or a breakage that hasn’t occurred? Well, you can’t, but you can take photos to show that all those things are in perfect condition. It’s not enough to say it; you need to show it.

As well as photographs, videos are easier than ever to take from your phone. Wander around your property and get close-ups of everything: switches, sockets, hinges, handles, walls, skirting boards, bathroom fittings, kitchen cupboards and appliances, heating systems, floor coverings, window frames, gardens.

Share them with your tenants, agree on their accuracy, and then sign them off together. By showing how responsible you are as a landlord and leaving nothing to chance, you give your tenants certainty of not being charged for anything unfair, and you send a clear message of how they should return your property.

HIDDEN BENEFITS

We generally speak of inventories as a failsafe in disputes, but they also play another role.

Properties need to be regularly maintained, and inventories can act as a flag for any maintenance areas that have gone unnoticed. If you’ve just bought a previously-occupied property, the previous owner’s belongings could have covered up some marks or damage. Or if you’ve owned your property for a while, you may simply have missed or gotten used to something.

Here’s another advantage of an inventory clerk, whose sole purpose is to visit properties to find flaws. By providing a fair and detailed report, they can also alert you to any areas needing attention. Nobody notices everything, and the clerk will give you an extra pair of extremely beady eyes to help you keep your rental property looking fine without having to go there.

Just because something is broken or damaged at the start of a tenancy doesn’t mean it has to stay that way for the duration. Instead of telling your tenants to make do, you’ll do wonders for your relationship – and your property’s value – by staying on top of repairs.

In summary

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the phrase prevention is better than cure. It’s a mantra for doctors worldwide and is a foundational factor in the explosion of the health and well-being industry.

By applying that same principle to your rental property, you’ll minimise unnecessary conflicts or disputes. Detailed and accurate paperwork, photo and video evidence, sensible language about the condition and enthusiastic maintenance will save you many potential headaches by removing any areas of doubt.

Inventories might not be the most exciting subject, but we’ll still gladly talk about them! If you’ve got a rental property in County Louth and you’d like to know more about inventories or any other aspect of buy-to-let, you’re very welcome to 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 being a landlord.

PROFESSIONAL PRIDE: WHY BEING AN ESTATE AGENT IS A REAL PRIVILEGE

March 9, 2021 #

Have you ever listed all the things you love about your work? It’s an illuminating exercise in clarifying all the reasons you do what you do. For some people, it can even be the catalyst for a change of career.

The idea for this week’s blog came unexpectedly one Sunday when my mind drifted to how much I enjoy being someone’s estate agent. It didn’t immediately occur as a blog, but as the minutes went by, it seemed a shame to keep it all to myself, so this week’s article is more personal than most.

Moving home is a big deal for everyone: for you; for the people you’re buying from; and for whoever’s buying from you. But your move is also a big deal for me, so when it’s time for you to find an estate agent in County Louth,  I’d love to hear about your plans. Call me for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie whenever the time is right.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the read.

HEARING PEOPLE’S STORIES

Everyone moves for a reason. The big ones include growing families, downsizing, a change of school, or relocating for work, while others are more particular and personal: housing an enormous collection (cars, records, art – you name it!); a change of scenery and lifestyle; wanting a workspace or creative studio at home.

Think about where you live right now. How did you come to be there? Even if you share any of the reasons above, your story will be entirely your own, and it’s fascinating to learn about people’s lives and where they hope to go: for themselves, for their families, and their futures.

Some moves are planned, others are unexpected, and a few are completely spontaneous. And while most moving tales are happy, they’re not always full of joy and helping people through all the highs and lows is a meaningful experience. Being there for those initial thoughts; putting a home on the market and finding a buyer; then through chains, conveyancing and completion: those are rich and deep relationships.

HELPING DREAMS COME TRUE

This might sound cheesy, but it’s a major part of being an estate agent: there’s so much riding on every move that you cannot be impervious. It can sometimes feel like having several families or households at once and being part of them all at the same time is nothing short of extraordinary.

If you’ve ever moved home, you’ll know how it heightens your nerves and emotions. Even with all the excitement about the future, the combination of uncertainty, unpredictability and upheaval is often mixed with specific timeframes and urgencies: it’s not the greatest recipe for staying relaxed.

There are lots of what-ifs, so there’s plenty of putting minds to rest and giving people comfort. There’s rarely a sale without even a minor bump in the road, and estate agents are on the frontline: when there’s a wobble, we’re usually the ones who have to deliver the news.

But we can also be the reason that sales go through; sometimes by solving real problems and sometimes by simply keeping people calm. We hear every side of the story directly from everyone involved, and we often bear the brunt of frustrations and delays. To say it requires patience would be an understatement, but when it all comes together, and contracts are exchanged, those calls of congratulation are truly special moments.

EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT

Whenever I talk to friends about being an estate agent, the conversation usually involves freedom and fresh air. Most people I know or meet, in some way or another, love the idea of being an estate agent, and the reasons they give are variety and inspiration.

Being an estate agent means meeting new people every day, being out in the neighbourhood and seeing inside people’s homes. From a purely selfish point of view, it makes for a wonderful week (unless it’s pouring with rain with a diary full of appointments: when the weather’s like that, the desk certainly has its charms!).

With no two days ever the same, each one is an exciting prospect every morning. Where will I go? Who will I meet? What will I see? The next destination always brings something new, from interior design to a beautiful garden, an impressive building or a surprising view.

Some homes are good-to-go and picture-perfect, while others need some help to be ready to market. Removing a rug might give a photo a lift; rotating the couch could make viewings flow better; a fresh coat of paint may brighten a room. Every home presents a different prospect and needs a beady eye to capture its character.

And even with the most meticulous planning  – from desk, car, cafe or bench – the unexpected is never far away, and you never know what the next phone call or email will bring.

BEING PART OF A COMMUNITY

We’re hardwired to be with other people, from the ancient ritual of sitting around a campfire after a long day’s hunt to enjoying Sunday lunch with your closest friends and family. But feeling part of a neighbourhood is also a wonderful thing, and I love bumping into people I’ve spoken to somewhere on their moving journey.

It’s not unusual to meet the owner of a home that I’ve valued or have on the market, and those casual chats in the street are lovely moments of fun. Or maybe it’s a family who moved through me a year ago and whose children have grown impossibly tall – can I remember all their names again?

Then there’s the buyer I met just once at a viewing: we got on really well while discussing taps, or schools, or property prices but haven’t seen each other since. There’s a flicker of recognition, but neither of us can remember why until the penny drops after a short exploratory chat.

Being constantly in the neighbourhood also means using other local businesses, which comes in really handy when I’m asked for recommendations (usually every day). My favourite coffee place; a pub for Sunday lunch; where to go jogging; a good dry-cleaner; the best-stocked off-licence; a great florist; a gym or exercise studio; a delicious Indian or Chinese; a butcher, a baker, a barber, a salon…

There are so many people and places to know, and it makes a real difference to how quickly someone feels at home when they’ve already got some tips from a local.

THE JOY OF COMPLETION DAY

Saving the best for last, seeing the smiles on people’s faces when it’s time to hand over or collect their keys, really does take some beating.

Whatever the ride was like along the way, and some sales are certainly smoother than others, all of the stresses and strains are replaced by the excitement of a new beginning. Anyone moving into a new home can’t wait to open the door, arrange the furniture and begin their new life.

It’s a day of emotion as well. If you’re leaving the place that’s been your home for a long time – maybe you’ve raised a family there and built a mountain of memories – saying goodbye will be a significant moment,  but it’s balanced with starting a new chapter. For me, it means so much to have played a part in making that happen.

In Summary

Well, now you know how it feels to be an estate agent. As well as being enjoyable, challenging and rewarding, it is also a great privilege to be chosen as anyone’s agent and entrusted with their move. That is something I never, ever forget.

So whenever you come to choosing an estate agent in County Louth, I’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re ready to go now, or if you’re only just beginning to think about the next stage of your life, you’re always welcome to get in touch for a chat about your plans. Call me on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie– let’s start with a conversation and see where it goes from there.

INCREASE YOUR YIELD: BETTER BUSINESS TIPS FOR LOCAL LANDLORDS

March 2, 2021 #

Is your rental property working as hard as it could for you? As a landlord, you’ll want to ensure that your investment is performing well and continues to make good business sense throughout the time you own it.

Homes often have hidden potential that, as well as unlocking more income, can substantially increase demand. And, as you’ll discover, there are many more options than merely increasing the rent and hoping it works out.

If you own a rental property in County Louth that’s either empty or where your existing tenants are moving out, now is the perfect time to review your options. To see how your property could work harder and smarter, call for a chat on  042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at five key areas affecting income, performance and profit to see if you recognise any opportunities for you.

REDUCE YOUR OUTGOINGS

Even when you have tenants, you’ll still have outgoings of some sort, whether a mortgage, insurance, ground rent or service charges. Finding opportunities to reduce them is an excellent way to bolster the foundations of your investment.

Look at any insurance policies you have, from buildings to contents to rent protection. Rather than wait until the renewal date, do an interim check to see if you can make savings. Often, the mere mention of switching to a different company can produce a discount from your existing provider.

If you’re paying monthly, you’ll probably only need to cancel your payments. If you’ve paid in full, many policies will offer you a pro-rata refund, but there may be an administration charge, so weigh up any costs of cancelling before hitting the button to switch.

Mortgages are usually the most significant monthly outgoing, which makes staying on top of rates your biggest savings opportunity. Again, take into account any early repayment and application charges, but if you’re on a regular variable rate, there’s probably a better deal out there.

Other refinancing options include remortgaging your primary home at a cheaper residential rate to pay off the more expensive buy-to-let loan. Or you could increase your buy-to-let mortgage payments now to take years off the repayment period, reducing your overall interest costs and freeing up more of your monthly profit much sooner.

ADD MORE BEDROOMS

If you’re looking to hold a property for the longer term, it’s worth looking at whether you can optimise the income-generating potential of the floor area.

More bedrooms generally mean more rent, so if you have a loft, you might be able to get one or two extra bedrooms up there, along with a second bath or shower room. Loft conversions are often the easiest way to increase accommodation without complicated planning consents or compromising how the existing accommodation works.

Keeping within the existing floorplate, can you reconfigure the layout? If the kitchen and living room are close to each other but separate, could they be combined into a contemporary open-plan living space while freeing up the kitchen’s old location to create an extra bedroom? Perhaps you can even install a breakfast bar to zone the kitchen and living areas while providing a social connection and a place to eat.

To make the redesigned living space feel bigger, blend the kitchen into the background using the same colour for the cupboards and the wall. Remember that the room needs to be large enough to cope with the extra people living in the property: you won’t get the best return on your investment if the result feels like profiteering or a compromise.

MAKE IT EASY TO LIVE

The longevity of tenancies and reduced void periods are crucial factors in the yield you achieve. Very often, it all comes down to how easy it is to live somewhere, so look around for any potential areas of difficulty or dissatisfaction.

Seemingly trivial issues like having a place for the vacuum cleaner, ironing board, suitcases and other household items that don’t belong on display can go a long way to keeping your tenants for longer.

With nowhere to hide things away, a home can feel temporary, as though someone isn’t planning to stay for long. And that could well come true if your tenants never feel quite settled or comfortable.

Even a cabinet in the bathroom – mirror-fronted above the basin if you’re stuck for space – can avoid an overcrowded mess of bottles, pots and toiletries bags that gathers dust and looks unsightly.

Very simply: think about how people really live and what they really need.

PRESENT LIKE A PRO

Rental homes can be at a disadvantage if they’re empty when photographed and viewed. Every last detail comes into sharp relief when there’s no furniture, textiles, gadgets or accessories to create a sense of home.

So it’s vital that everything looks great. If the walls and woodwork are looking tired, attend to scuffs, chips, and picture marks. If they won’t clean off, a fresh coat of paint can be a real lift and excite potential tenants with the prospect of moving into a freshly-decorated home.

Loose handles, wobbly taps and ill-fitting cupboard doors can also drag a space down, so don’t leave viewers with the impression that your property is falling apart. Things can come loose over time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything needs replacing. Simple handyman tasks like these, along with grout and sealant in kitchens and bathrooms, are easy to fix and work wonders for first impressions.

HAVE A FULL REVIEW

If you’re using a managing agent, they should be updating you at regular intervals. If you’re self-managing, here are some things to review to maintain your property’s performance.

Occupancy: Do you have lengthy void periods, or do your tenants regularly leave after the first year? What could be wrong? Look back over the other sections in this blog to see if you’re missing a trick with your presentation, price or publicity.

Rent: are you in line with the current market? Too high and you’ll have no interest; too low and your yield will drop. Rents can fluctuate, and it’s not unknown for tenants to find a cheaper option and give notice before their landlord has the opportunity to strike a new deal, so it’s important to pre-empt unnecessary changeovers and loss of income.

Your agent: If you’re using an agent and you’re not happy with the results, take a look at how your property is being marketed and managed. You should feel in good hands at all times and confident that your interests are being served and protected. Are there areas that could improve? Can those be achieved with your current agent, or is it time to switch?

Ownership: there may be a better investment out there. Maybe your property needs a new kitchen or bathroom, but you don’t want the expense, or perhaps the service charges eat too far into the rent. It’s always worth asking yourself the question: is your property becoming too much work, and will your money do better in another buy-to-let?

In summary

Every property will have opportunities for improved performance, but not every expense is justified in every home. It’s essential to match your spend to your market and to avoid over-improving or wasting your money.

If you’re a landlord with a rental property in County Louth, don’t commit to anything major before talking to us! Call for a chat on  042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie: we’d love to help you realise the full potential of your investment.

BEHIND THE SCENES: WHAT DOES AN ESTATE AGENT DO FOR YOUR MONEY?

February 23, 2021 #

“Put it on the Internet and wait for the phone to ring”. That’s perhaps how many people see an estate agent’s life, and there’s undoubtedly some mystery around precisely what agents do beyond putting a property on the market and showing people around.

While a big part of the day is being out in the neighbourhood and looking at homes, there’s plenty more work that might not be so obvious. A bit like a swan gliding majestically across a lake, there’s a lot of action under the surface to keep things moving smoothly.

To shine a light on all that happens, you’re invited this week for a look behind the scenes of Lavelles for a fly-on-the-wall experience. By the time you’ve read this blog, you’ll be armed with insider info and primed to choose with confidence the estate agent that’s right for you.

Remember that you’re always welcome to get in touch for a talk about moving home: just pick up the phone for a chat on 042 933 2482, or send an email to  info@lavelles.ie.  But meanwhile, let’s dive into a typical day of getting the neighbourhood moved.

MATCHMAKING

There’s definitely an art to putting the right buyer together with the right property.

When someone sends in a viewing request for a home they’ve seen on the Internet, they usually don’t end up buying it. Sales come from listening to the hopes and desires of buyers and learning what lies at the heart of their move. Very often, people start looking for one thing but end up choosing something completely different.

Typical moving stories include simplifying a commute, needing more space, wanting to downsize, changing schools or work, finding a permanent solution to working from home, or having somewhere secure to park a prized new car.

But not every buyer needs to move; some of them simply want to. One might like the idea of a new renovation project; another might be looking for a change of scene, and someone else might find themselves with a sudden chance to move up the property ladder through a pay rise, promotion or inheritance.

As well as looking at motivation, matchmaking also means ensuring that anyone coming to view your home is actually able to buy it. Do they have a mortgage agreed in principle; are they really a cash buyer; is their current home already under offer; is there anything else that might affect their ability to move?

These factors are essential elements in pairing people with property, meaning more relevant viewings for buyers and fewer wasted ones for you.

DREAM WEAVING

Sometimes – actually, quite often! – a property that seems at first unsuitable could allow someone to create their perfect home. Not everyone gets their ready-made ideal, but with some thought, imagination and even a pencil and paper to sketch out an idea, an agent can show that a home is a good fit, even if it doesn’t fit now.

Could a house be extended to provide the accommodation a family needs in the location they love? Presenting a home that’s significantly below someone’s buying power could free them to reconfigure or expand the interior with the money they save. Perhaps a loft conversion would give them the bedroom they crave away from the kids, while a large garden might provide space for a family-sized dining kitchen.

Other creative thinking might look at whether a large living space could split to create a separate study for working from home, or whether removing a wall could provide a larger dining room for people who love to cook and entertain.

By encouraging buyers to look beyond a home’s current layout and towards its future potential, an estate agent can create excitement and the possibility of transformation. And by making introductions to local architects, builders and contractors, a project that might have felt too large can suddenly feel more achievable.

MARKET MONITORING

Photographs and descriptions are only the beginning; your agent must stay on top of the market to ensure your sales strategy stays right.

If the market rises, it may become apparent that you can achieve significantly more than your current asking figure: a few weeks at a new level might net you extra tens of thousands of euros. This same logic applies when prices weaken: a quick reduction of a few percent could save you months of chasing the market down.

Both scenarios require constant study of the market, from demand to sentiment and sales. Swift communication is essential to agree on the best course of action and to keep you assured that your interests are being looked after.

If you’re switching agents, you have the opportunity for a whole new strategy and to completely revitalise your move. Sometimes, an upward tweak of just €5 can lift you into a new price bracket with an entirely new audience of wealthier buyers. Many homes fail to sell because the asking price fails to exploit the price bands of the property portals, and a simple adjustment can change your fortunes and capture the eye of your perfect buyer.

HAND HOLDING

Have you noticed how we’re never far from a sensationalist story about the future of the property market? Whether it’s a pandemic, a change in interest rates, or a rise or fall in the number of sales, rarely does a week go by without commentary and dramatic predictions.

News is one thing, but scaremongering can severely impact buyer confidence and lead someone to withdraw from a purchase – regardless of the financial consequences – forcing chains to collapse and leaving multiple moves in shreds.

When a buyer reads so much negativity, it’s understandable for them to have second thoughts, but that doesn’t mean that every doom-laden story in the media needs to be followed or treated as gospel. Buyers who withdraw can come to regret their decision soon afterwards, only to discover their dream home was snapped up by someone else. When people lose sight of why they fell in love with a home, it’s up to estate agents to help them remember.

Even when positivity reigns, the days before exchanging contracts are where the reality of commitment bites. When it’s time to put the money down and sign on the line, people can take a deep breath and ask: “Is this the home we really want?”. So it’s up to an estate agent to maintain momentum and enthusiasm throughout the sales process by staying in touch, noticing signs of doubt, and talking them through.

Many sales are saved with a simple, respectful and open conversation.

PROBLEM-SOLVING

Not every sale of every property gets to exchange of contracts without a hitch. And while it’s a conveyanc­er’s job to carry out the legal work, it’s often the estate agent with local knowledge who provides the solution to problems.

There’s no requirement for conveyancers to be in the neighbourhood, and, if you’re selling in one area and buying in another, your conveyancer will be a stranger to at least one location. So when disparities or irregularities arise, it’s an agent’s local expertise that can go a very long way.

Funny old-fashioned lease clauses might have been solved on other nearby sales; boundary rules or shared rights of way could appear odd to anyone unfamiliar; even knowing whether a house is at the top or bottom of a hill can make the difference in avoiding delays.

Estate agents are also the ones who challenge the valuations of mortgage lenders and surveyors when their figure is below an agreed price. Current ongoing sales provide the most up-to-date comparable evidence (and can be crucial to support the price agreed), but those sales won’t yet appear in the Land Registry database. 

A solid case often needs to be compiled that shows a price is correct and reflects the levels achieved on other nearby homes, particularly when new ceilings are being set.

In summary

Hopefully, that gives you plenty of insight into the day and life of an estate agent. From matchmaking to dream weaving, hand-holding to problem-solving and keeping an eye on the market, there’s rarely a dull moment and hardly ever a spare minute.

It’s an absolute privilege to be entrusted with anyone’s move, so if you have a property in County Louth and would like to discover if we’re the estate agent for you, why not get in touch? You can call us on 042 933 2482 or email  info@lavelles.ie – everything starts with a conversation.

DEPOSIT DISPUTES: WHY DO SO MANY LANDLORDS LOSE?

February 16, 2021 #

Ending up in a dispute at the end of a tenancy is one of the least inviting prospects of being a landlord, and thankfully most tenancies end perfectly amicably. But when they do end in disagreement, many landlords manage to lose their claim, leading them to feel that the system is weighted against them.

The most important thing in a deposit dispute is for the outcome to reflect the reality, whether the fault is on the landlord or tenant side. The courts and arbitration services are not there to automatically find in favour of the tenant, but it is the landlord’s responsibility to prove a claim is valid and realistic.

So, in this week’s article, we’re taking a look at why landlords – and particularly self-managing ones – lose so many disputes: from whether their claims are fair in the first place, to how they can improve the way they create and run their tenancies.

If you own a rental property in County Louth and you’ve either lost a dispute, or you’d like to chat about minimising the chances of them happening, we’d love to talk to you. Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie

Meanwhile let’s see where things go wrong for landlords, how the outcomes can be different, and how many situations can be avoided altogether.

SETUP & ADMIN

Whenever a property requires a knack for things to go right, you can guarantee it will come back as bad news.

One culprit here is condensation and mould. If your bathroom or kitchen are susceptible to either, the most effective option is to install an extractor fan with a humidity sensor that automatically activates. One small job removes all the possible consequences, costs and kerfuffle. Otherwise, you’ll need to highlight the potential for mould and condensation in your tenancy agreement, and get your tenants to accept any future costs that arise from forgetting to open a window. Terms like that could lead to someone questioning whether your property is somewhere they want to live.

Another example of poor setup can be when renting to people with pets, which is usually problem-free but does require written agreement over any costs that may arise. If the responsibilities for these aren’t stipulated at the outset – from damages to smells to infestations – your claim is at risk if the tenancy agreement is unclear. You’ll find that most tenants are quite happy to sign a clause accepting responsibility for any costs arising from their pets, or any visiting ones.

FITTINGS & REPAIRS

There are plenty of landlord groups on social media where you’ll see posts that celebrate how cheaply someone has managed to renovate one of their rental properties. Often they find good-looking but ultimately poor-quality fittings that are not likely to last, and where a later visit from a contractor sends the price above the cost of buying something better in the first place.

Cheap taps or laminate floors in wet areas are a couple of quick tricks to making a kitchen or bathroom shine on the surface, but your property must be durable as well. It’s tough to prove a tenant is at fault when the fittings and materials in a property simply aren’t up to the job.

The same goes for repairs: if you respond quickly and attend to repairs, you’ll show respect for your investment, your tenants, and your time. By making your property a low-maintenance home, you’ll have longer, happier tenancies and fewer repairs and disputes.

BREAKING THE RULES

Every now and then, a property gets handed back in a condition where lots of work is needed to put things right.

You may feel rightly frustrated, disappointed or let down, but it’s essential to keep a cool head. Whatever you do, and no matter how tempting, don’t hold onto the security deposit in a way that ignores legal procedures, or you risk invalidating your claim.

Your best course of action is to obtain quotes as quickly as possible for all the works and costs, then submit them to the previous tenants along with any reports or photographic evidence, and with clear and comprehensive details about why they are responsible. You don’t need to wait until you’ve settled your dispute to carry out any repairs, so your next tenancy needn’t be delayed beyond the completion of the works.

Of course, it’s a hassle, and you may not even want to speak to the people who’ve left your property in such a state (one of the benefits of having a managing agent to deal with it on your behalf!). Still, clear communication without resorting to angry recriminations is the most likely route to a swifter settlement.

CLEANING CONFLICTS

The largest area of dispute between landlords and tenants is cleaning, accounting for around 25% of all claims.

In a way, it’s comforting. Cleaning is not about breakages, repairs or arguments over wear & tear, so it’s effectively a small dispute. Regardless of who wins, it’s straightforward enough to get a property cleaned, but what a waste of everyone’s time for such a mundane thing!

Of course, it can be more than a trivial issue if your incoming tenants have to move into an unclean home. It’s not a great start to a tenancy, and a professional clean is more difficult to obtain while there are boxes everywhere and your tenants unpack.

Generally speaking, a dispute over cleaning comes up when one side skimps. Suppose you don’t hand your property over in a professionally-cleaned state, and you don’t employ an inventory clerk to take photographic evidence. In that case, any claim will be difficult to win at the end. The same goes for outgoing tenants: if they sign off on the cleaning when moving in, but can’t produce a receipt for a professional clean when they leave, they are unlikely to win a dispute.

UNFAIR CLAIMS

Unfortunately, some landlords do attempt unjustified or exaggerated claims against their tenants.

If you don’t regularly inspect your property, there could be a few years between your visits, during which time signs of wear and tear will develop. Scuffs on walls, woodwork and floors are a part of life; ovens don’t stay looking like new; neither does grouting or sealant – not even in the homes of landlords!

Areas like these are more noticeable when a property is empty than when it’s lived in, and they’ll also look far worse to you if it’s been four years since your last visit.

Regular inspections are invaluable and, for us, they’re a normal part of the day. Anything that might have gone unnoticed in the everyday distractions of life tends to get picked up before it becomes a major problem and a cause for a dispute.

In summary

As a landlord, there’s a lot you need to get right: not just to minimise the opportunity for disputes, but to ensure you don’t automatically lose them. The many laws that cover lettings are there to help you run your tenancies effectively, and well-maintained properties tend to attract higher-quality tenants, most of whom will love their home and treat it as if they owned it.


As a self-managing landlord, it can sometimes feel like an awful lot to stay on top of, so you might want to explore having your rental investments looked after by people who do it every day. If you have a property in County Louth and you’d like to discover whether using a managing agent is the right decision for you, why not get in touch? Call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie– we’re here to make your life as a landlord as easy as can be.

TIMING YOUR MOVE: HOW TO CHOOSE THE PERFECT MOMENT TO SELL

February 9, 2021 #

Have you ever wondered how to pick the perfect time to sell your home? It’s probably the question we’re asked the most when talking to people about their move.

But how do you pick your moment with so much conflicting advice? Should you exploit the new year rush, or sell in the spring when the blossom is on the trees? Is it better to get in before the summer holidays, or wait till the kids have gone back to the school in September, or join the Boxing Day Bounce?

You’re certainly not alone if you’re a little confused, but there’s more to selling your home than picking the time of year. And while it’s not a scientific formula, there are elements worth considering when choosing when to move.

Our team is always on hand to discuss your moving plans. If you’re considering selling your property in County Louth and would like to talk about timescales, current demand or anything else you’re unsure of, call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at how you can choose a moment to sell that fits with your plans and finds you the perfect buyer. What you’ll discover is that it’s not just a matter of when you sell, but why and how you do it.

NEEDING MORE SPACE

The reason why most people move is outgrowing their existing home. That could be from accumulating stuff, to moving in with a partner, to starting or growing a family.

Perhaps the first question to ask is whether moving is your preference. If your current home offers you the potential to extend, would you rather stay where you are? Extending can save you all the costs of buying and selling; money you can spend on your building works instead.

But if moving is the more realistic option – or you’re excited about the prospect of living somewhere new – here are some things to consider.

If you’re expecting an addition to the family, you’ll want to avoid a move around the time of birth. Your best option is to aim to be in your new home a couple of months early, giving you plenty of time for settling in and preparing for your new arrival. Alternatively, wait until a few months after your baby is born when you’ve got your energy back.

Where older children are involved, and assuming no change of school, you’re free to move whenever you want. But look a bit further down the line from the move you’re considering now.

If you need an extra bedroom to give a teenager their own space, will you need to do the same again in another few years? If that’s the case, consider finding a house that your family can grow into. And if that’s too much of a jump, look for somewhere with potential to extend later on: a good-size loft, or space to the side, could give you extra bedrooms when you need them, as well as a longer-term family home.

CHANGING SCHOOLS

Getting your children the best education could well mean moving to the catchment area of the school of your choice, or at least closer to it.

Everyone’s preference – from teachers, to parents, to children – is to avoid disrupting the school year, which means moving in the summer holidays between the end of July and the beginning of September.

The current average house move takes between 15 and 25 weeks: that’s from the first day on the market to the day of completion, so you’re looking at a 4-6 month timeframe. To be settled in nicely for the new school year, March is a sensible moment to put your home on the market.

Don’t worry about feeling you’ll need to move too soon. It’s far easier to agree a delayed completion when you give yourself the time to find the right buyer, than it is to be desperate for a fast mover if you leave things a little too late.

RELOCATING FOR WORK

An unexpected work opportunity may spring out of nowhere, leaving you feeling it’s a chance you shouldn’t pass up. But relocation is about so much more than career and salary. You’ll be saying goodbye to your current life – friends, neighbours and favourite places – so it really needs to be a move worth making, particularly if you’re happy in your home right now.

To get a real feeling of where you’d be moving to, spend a weekend there exploring and researching. Alongside practicalities like schools, shops and transport, make sure your free time will be fun and fulfilling. Do you like a lively cafe for weekend coffee and breakfast; do you want great local pubs with Sunday roasts and beer gardens; do you like to exercise in the great outdoors, or simply enjoy parks and green space? Think about the things in life you enjoy.

Your timing to sell will depend on when you take up a new position. If you’re looking to start very soon, renting out your home first could be your best option, with a view to selling later when you’re settled: this may also give you comfort if you feel you might return. Alternatively, a relocation package that includes out-of-pocket costs like rent, mortgage and fees, could make selling your home now a sound financial proposal.

You’ll have plenty to juggle, so speak to your estate agent about your preferred timescales and the current demand for homes like yours to decide whether selling or renting is right.

DOWNSIZING

A house that’s become too large will be full of memories, and this can make the idea of moving a difficult thing to consider.

Perhaps now is a good moment to say that memories will follow you wherever you go; they don’t get left behind when you change your address and they can be even more joyous when free of those unused rooms filled with furniture and belongings.

If you’re already thinking about downsizing, it’s a sign that your home has become too much to manage, or no longer reflects your lifestyle. Nonetheless, it’s a big decision to sell.

A good way to know if it’s right for you is to think about your future. Have you thought about moving to a cottage near the sea, or swapping a big old house for a modern apartment opposite a park or river? By concentrating your thoughts on new possibilities, you can see if they warm your heart. Perhaps you’ll see change in a different light.

Talking to an estate agent about the value of your current home, followed by a just-for-fun browse of what’s available in your dream location, will give you the knowledge and inspiration to choose your next step.

ON A WHIM

There you are on a Tuesday evening, casually scrolling through your favourite portal with Netflix on in the background, and suddenly there it is! The home of your dreams drifts onto your phone screen and, even though you weren’t really thinking about moving, that photo has got you hooked. There’s nothing else to be said; that’s where you want to live.

It’s not as rare or fantastical as it might seem, and while it might not fit with your estate agent’s advice – find a buyer for your current home before setting your heart on your next one – life has a habit of presenting opportunities in the moments we least expect them.

So you go to see the property, and it’s as wonderful and perfect as you’d hoped. You get on really well with the estate agent and the owners, you agree on a price, and they even give you some breathing space to get your property sold.

Now it’s time to get onto your estate agent and get your home on the market straight away. You’ll need to keep the people you’re buying from onside and patient, so this isn’t an occasion for being overly ambitious on price. When their estate agent phones your estate agent, they’ll want to hear confidence and realism to stick with your offer.

In summary

It can be easy and very tempting to over-strategise about the month, season or market conditions when it comes to selling your home, but the best guide to when the time is right is when it feels right for you. It’s your circumstances and your lifestyle that should always be the driving factors behind your move, and even though it could well be the largest financial transaction you ever make, moving home is about so much more than money.

If you own a property in County Louth and you’re unsure of whether or when to sell your home, please do get in touch with our team. Call for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie: you’ll always find an expert and friendly ear who’s happy to listen to your plans, and to help you find the right path.

BUILD A PORTFOLIO OF POPULAR & PROFITABLE LETTINGS

February 1, 2021 #

Do you think it’s impossible to be popular AND profitable as a landlord? Perhaps you feel that one cancels out the other; that it’s a choice between hard-nosed business and being nice, but that the two are fundamentally incompatible?

You wouldn’t be alone in your view, but it’s perfectly possible to have a successful rental portfolio that’s a commercial success while being on excellent terms with your tenants. Questioning how your rental properties could be popular can help you increase your returns by owning a collection of in-demand homes where people really want to live.

Growing your rental portfolio can provide you with a secure financial future and provide many people with a wonderful home. Whether you are an experienced landlord looking to expand your portfolio, or you are looking for your first buy-to-let investment, this week’s blog is for you.

We work with many landlords and their rental properties in County Louth: some we’ve helped grow their portfolio, and some are just starting out. Whatever stage you’re at, you’re welcome to get in touch about any aspect of buy-to-let: call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie

Meanwhile, read on to discover how you can build a profitable and popular portfolio to enhance your life, and be a hit with your tenants.

FOCUS & FINANCE

It’s sensible to decide which part of the rental market you want to focus on. If you’re looking to rent to families, do some research around the best local schools. Offering a home in the catchment area of an outstanding-rated school will give you plenty of demand as diligent parents move the earth to get their children the best education.

Or do you want young professionals? In which case you’ll need good transport connections nearby along with places to enjoy the neighbourhood. An excellent local coffee shop; a pub with Sunday roasts and a great selection of ales, and a weekend breakfast spot are all high on the lifestyle criteria of busy singles and couples.

Whichever market you’d like to explore, check where the demand is with local letting agents. Which types of rental property have a continuous shortage? Where can you find those homes in the neighbourhood? That’s a good target.

Even though it’s tempting to rush out and view potential properties, having your finance in place first will give you confidence in knowing exactly what you can afford, and help you move on an opportunity quickly.

Talk to an experienced financial adviser with knowledge of buy-to-let lenders and products so they can recommend a solution that fits your circumstances. You’ll find a financial adviser invaluable in sifting through all the various lending criteria, so you don’t have to spend your evenings trawling Google or comparison sites.

As well as your mortgage, make sure you have the money in place for the associated costs of purchasing a property, as well as for any renovations you intend to carry out: never start a building project without having the cash to complete it. If you end up having to halt the works until you’re in funds again, you could lose all your contractors as they head off to other jobs, leaving you with an empty property, no rent, and mortgage payments due.

KNOW YOUR ONIONS

Whether you’re handling all the management yourself or employing a managing agent, keeping your portfolio to a single area or neighbouring postcodes makes life much easier.

You’ll increase your local knowledge, and your familiarity can save you hours of research over local property prices, protecting you from misinformation or being overly hopeful.

Managing a portfolio also requires a trusted circle of reliable contractors who can leap to your aid when an emergency hits, and keeping your portfolio close together will save you hunting for contractors in multiple locations. Imagine needing five different groups of contractors for your five rental properties in five separate cities: try dealing with that!

And if you’re using a managing agent, the whole point is to give yourself less work. The fewer points of contact, the easier it will be for you to talk about your portfolio and the closer your relationship, resulting in more opportunities. Landlords who want to sell often speak to their managing agent first to see if they know another landlord who’ll buy their property without the hassle of going to the open market and frightening away their tenants.

CASH IS KING

Cash flow is the most important thing for any business, and the lack of it causes many companies to fail. If your rental property becomes a monthly drain on your finances, the entire experience of being a landlord will be tainted by money concerns.

Many landlords become fixated on capital growth, forgetting about yield. If you want to secure a financial future for yourself, then clearly the value of your property is a factor but is largely out of your control.

Your rental yield is a vital component of a sustainable lettings portfolio and will help you build an emergency fund for unexpected problems and regular maintenance. Imagine having to dip into your own pockets for every issue or repair.

A property’s rental income must cover all of its monthly outgoings. It’s sensible to build in a cushion against rising interest rates as well, particularly when those rates are as low as they are right now.

POPULARITY WINS

Being popular is a rarely discussed aspect of being a landlord. You might even see it as an impossible dream. But being a popular landlord is a much easier life than being an unpopular one. It will give you a more reliable, more comfortable and more enjoyable experience, both personally and professionally.

Creating a collection of well-presented and well-maintained homes will give you several benefits:

perfect tenant.


FIND A CARER

What’s your goal? Are you looking to switch careers and become a full-time self-managing landlord with a completely hands-on approach to maintenance, tenants and repairs? Or do you want to grow a rental portfolio to supplement – or replace – your current income with as little work as possible?

If you don’t want to manage everything yourself, you could employ someone to look after your portfolio if it’s large enough. Ensure that you’re not simply doing a friend a favour by giving them a job; you need a manager who knows exactly what they’re doing and has experience looking after rental properties and tenants.

Of course, the way to be sure of management expertise and a circle of local contractors is to use a managing agent. They’ll have rooted out the disastrous contractors from the good ones, and they’ll have the leverage to get preferential treatment. When maintenance issues arise, they’ll be dealt with quickly, correctly and at a reasonable cost.

Managing agents exist to save you money and time and are the perfect solution for growing your portfolio as a substantial, sustainable and passive income.

Check them out first by speaking to the property manager with whom you’ll be having a long-term relationship. It’s essential to have confidence in them and feel you can have a sensible conversation and receive the correct guidance. Ask them how long they’ve been managing properties; how many they manage; how often they carry out inspections and how they deal with out-of-hours emergencies.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions: the right managing agent will be only too happy to put your concerns to rest.

How was that?

Would you like to talk about growing your existing lettings portfolio? If you’re looking to acquire more – or your first! – rental property in County Louth, or you’d like to talk about using a managing agent, why not get in touch?

We’re here to help you make the most of being a landlord, so call us for a chat on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie

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.

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.

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