As I sit here in the early summer months – absolutely frozen to the bone . . . . The weather here has been astonishing. No set pattern at all for the last year or two. I was only bemoaning the cold wet spring just before going on a short break to Texax, where it unseasonably hot – all the time. None of this having the heating on one day and sweltering trying to find natural shade the next – Aircon essential 24/7 there. The house I stayed in was still relatively new – 5 years, and was the standard wooden framework and fibre board infill design they go in for. Any little niggles are seen to immediately – the fibreboard needs to be protected from critters, very aggressive squirrels, other pests and the weather. It is very hot most days and also very humid, so weatherboarding rots easily, as do all soffits and fascias. The windows have to have shade shutters on the inside so as to keep out most of the sun and heat. These are definitely a different set of property problems to those we have!
There can be many a problem when you own a property, be that flat or house or bungalow. This is particularly true for the single person with one or two mobility issues. The ability to shin up a ladder at a moment’s notice to check out the guttering, or two find out why damp seems to be collecting around the edge of the upstairs windows – outside . . . . Having a property problem solver’s number tapped into your ‘useful numbers’ section of your contacts list is a boon. Finding a reliable one is key – there are now a few of the ‘trader ratings’ lists around on which satisfied customers rate and review services supplied. These can be relied on. All traders have to register – and pay to be on it. They also need to show they’re qualified, certified if necessary and fully insured for public and personal liability and deal honestly with vat matters.
The best way to improve one’s financial lot I’m sure, is to invest in property. I know a young chap who strained every sinew to buy his first flat in a seriously run down part of south london – it had a grim reputation but it was near his university. It was pretty awful going to visit him at times, especially when there were racially motivated flare ups amongst the local community. However, the area got a little bit smarter over the years. An old vaudeville theatre venue was brought back to life and taken over by a national broadcasting company to host a now mega successful comedy playhouse which is featured on mainstream tv now. The change has been meteoric. So has the value of that strange little 3rd floor flat with its sloping ceilings and odd little stairways. The £53K he struggled desperately to get mortgage funds for has now just sold for £352K. That can’t be a bad turaround for twenty year investment.
If you’re in a very busy relationship and both are working full time away from the home, weekends are usually taken up with family activities and sports. It can be really difficult to find the time to keep up with the everyday tasks needed to ensure the property is kept sound, safe and solid. If this is the case, then it could be ideal to talk to a couple of property maintenance teams – there are several about and most are online too. Some deal with small contracts and are good for elderly folk – just by inviting them round to quote, you can check if they’re serious, reliable and not going to rip anyone off. Check also they’re experienced and fully qualified for any work they offer and especially if electrics, water and/or gas are involved. Another must have is Public Liability insurance and membership of any trusted trader organisation helps too.
Whilst I was working for a private company for many years, I enjoyed them putting me in their non contributory pension scheme. I felt really valued to be joining the men who automatically qualified upon entering service. In my day, there was a reluctance to put women in – we might leave and inconvenience them! However my point is that the pension scheme invests in many different quarters and I have noticed recently that bucking a usual trend, their interests in the world of property investment has really boomed this year. A couple of years ago, I nearly asked for my stake to be moved to something that looked more positive in the stock market But I didn’t and I am relieved – the commercial properties involved are amongst the best performers. So one man’s castle is another man’s property kingpin!
When you live in an apartment there is usually some form of ground rent to pay to the landlord who owns the freehold – the land on which your apartment block is built. On top of this comes monthly service charge for a management or facilities company to look after the grounds, any external buildings such as garages or waste collection points. They are also contracted to maintain all the gardens and communal spaces. Usually the landlord/s will use one property company to deal with all the regular site maintenace and another group dedicated to the green spaces and gardens. With rental apartments it is critical that the facilities management team are completely honest, trusworthy, fully trained and experienced – they have to enter properties to fix all kinds of problems from misbehaving plumbing and central heating to windows or guttering that needs repairing. Getting the right team takes time and a lot of research!
There is only one thing about staying in a home for more than about 15 years – things start falling apart after that while. It has to be said that families do tend to treat homes a tad more roughly these days. In this throw away society that we’ve created, means we don’t hold dear the furniture, bakeware, cooking utensils, or any fixtures and fittings as our grandparents and parents may have done. For their generations, the motto “Mend and Make Do” and “A Stitch In Time Saves Nine” meant every day existence. These old fashioned ideas should be thought of more though by all families. Taking care of our property particularly will make it safer, warmer, less expensive and much nicer to live in. Replacing broken windows and frames, repairing any damaged or broken guttering and fascia boards all keep out the elements and look so much better. It’s pride and economic sense.
I live in a part of the country that has more than its fair share of heritage and historic properties. Being in the very quiet zone that had many connections with the English civil war and other battles over the centuries, the occupants of big houses were usually already rich but managed to add to their piles by judicious side swapping and patronage. The spoils of their wars now require vast sums to keep them from falling down in ruin. This is where our craftsmen and women are gaining fantastic experience in decorating and maintaining very precious buildings which are generally Grade I or II, needing very specific building controls for all work – building, change of windows, guttering etc. Everything has to comply with a set of the most stringent rules designed to protect the origins of our amazing building heritage and history. Very expensive but invaluable for this tiny power-house island!
Just at the moment we are being battered by a variety of storms coming our way from every direction. To me this is quite a new phenonenom – a really viscious storm was a once in twenty year experience when I was growing up. Yes, we would have the thunder storms in late summer, if it got hot enough. Winter heralded freezing cold weather with icicles and snow in January and February, sometimes through to Easter. This regular battering from storms is something we have to get used to. Ensuring our property maintenance plan is effective will be something our home insurance companies will be getting hot about. They clearly state on policies that properties must be maintained in good order and repairs carried out to minimise damage. Engaging a property maintenance team for regular checks and making good is a very sound investment these days. Always better to be safe than expensively sorry!
I have a few chums with old houses – one in particular is constantly moaning about having to repair this or fix that. It’s quite astonishing just how many times I see her in the year and the same old gripe seems to come up. When we were lunching out the other week, having sat through another bout of this, I asked what had happened since she last brought up the subject of the leaking gutters and the broken downpipe . . . . of course, nothing had in fact happened, which is why they were still leaking and broken. I gave her the details of a good property maintenance and service company. If you are unable to physically fix a problem, then you must be prepared to pay someone who can, and who will check the rest of the area around the problem and advice on remedial and upfront protection from future failings. Ah all fixed!