This is a most peculiar winter – certainly the most challenging one we’ve had in a couple of generations. At this time of year we do expect to have the most challenging weather – always a lot of cold, interspersed with dense fog, freezing at times, maybe some lightweight snow and always some ice along the way. Well leading up to this point we’ve had endless rain, it’s been the most prolonged downpouring in centuries – this of course has cause absolute mayhem with flooding and several towns and villages are still struggling to get straight some months after they suffered this. Global warming and climate change are definitely blameworthy, as is the lack of envronmental maintenance in many areas. This is turn has a knock on effect on houses in those areas. Because it’s impossible to get insurance on a once flooded home, people don’t really bother with the upkeep as much as they might. This leads in time to rot and badly cared for outsides. Gutters are not replaced which lets more water run down the brickwork. Window frames are left rotting and this causes irrepairable damage. It needs expert maintenance teams to come in and really fix up these properties to make them fully habitable once more.
Oh how exciting it is when you get the keys to the first house you buy. With this thrill comes the down side . . . having to keep it maintained and fully safe and functional. The terms of the mortgage will insist on at least the basic jobs be undertaken to stop any problems actually starting up. Once someone gets the hang of it or chips in for another company to do this work, then they might think about buying another property and starting an property investment portfolio. Many people like to put their money into this kind of scheme as the banks and financial markets are so volatile and no interest seems to come our way. To buy at auction for a ‘song’ and have the house or flat renovated or just refurbished allows it to be rented out pretty quickly to start earning its keep. Then with buy to let financing, the next property is purchased and the actions repeated. With careful and prudent financial controls, the rental income will be sufficient to meet the mortgage payments plus all other costs associated with running the property and leave some spare for the investment pot.
Facilities management services are generally tailored to match a customer’s needs in that they combine various integrated services. These could include mechanical and electrical engineering, environmental concerns and technically challenging issues such as maintenance and condition of the building fabric and surroundings. Apart from the property and running of it – keeping the escalators and lifts operating safely, ensuring the power is available all the time and the aircon doesn’t break down in the height of summer. They can also deal with such things as asset tagging and recording – knowing exactly what is in each buzzing cabinet is amongst this section. Health and Safety concerns are always upper most in management eyes and the facilities management company will be fully coversant with current laws. Procurement is another huge area – from the catering side to the washroom and janitorial – including also the recycling and garage disposal contracts. Financial management and budget preparation together with tendering and negotiating annual service agreements go hand in hand with the other responsibilities.
The small matter of downsizing from a large family detached house in a home counties town to a twee little chocolate box cottage on the edge of a village in the middle of nowhere can be very challenging. It’s even more so for the rose tinted glasses wearing older couple who have apparently always harboured a desire to join the country set and have a space in the back garden for hens, goats, a pony or two and maybe a boat on the river at the end of their garden. Then they need to have space to grow all that veg and so the list goes on and on. One particular presenter of the most popular ‘legging it away from the town’ show does have the very well crafted knack of bringing the starry eyed couple down to earth with the words ‘down sizing was the aim when we started, so a little compromise is going to be needed soon’. It always seemed to do the trick.
Almost everybody likes the idea of a property in the country. We see these programmes on tv of folk, already in nice houses but now itching to either downsize, or just up sticks and move to their dream location off the beaten track. Now this is always a lot more difficult to pull off when the couple are set in very established ways and have gotten used to having a lot of space for their living. No end of times you hear the presenter of the programme reminding the couple that the magic words ‘downsize’ and ‘compromise’ were freely banded about at the start of the project but seem to dry up dramatically as each house meets a woeful rejection for not having a big enough kitchen or the bedrooms are too squashed etc. One host of a programme, retaining as much patience and grace as possible managed to convey through gritted teeth that country cottages are necessarily small and pokey with beams – they were built to retain warmth.
I know of a couple who decided to sell up and move away to more convenient climes. They were living in outer London. After struggling to find anything in their price range some years ago and of course, with property changing hands at the most terrifying prices, they decided recently to try and sell so they could move down south to be near her parental baby sitting assistance. . . Property investment had not necessarily featured in their plans but although they advertised the house and several families wanted it – in the end, no one actually bought it in the time window they set aside. So they’re renting it out at staggering rent – and have bought a cheaper house in their desired location. This has been much easier altogether and with the aid of a mortgage broker of great experience, they got a good buy to let deal for the london end. It always pays to use an expert in any dealings with property conveyancing or facilities management.
The interesting thing about property development is the wide range of expectations of the buyers when you see them on the tv lifestyle shows. There’s one particular programme that deals with auctions and we meet a huge selection – some will already be experienced in buying and doing up places and others are just setting out on their journey to make millions . . . . The truth of the matter is that some succeed in making a good job of the interior design and others just get the cheapest stuff and tidy up theirs – just for the rental market. When I was renting I would have loved a tidier array of flats than I was ever able to rent – the property investment business had not been a career changer that is is now and it was a matter of finding a postcard in a window offering accommodation; going along to view and checking if it looked fairly safe. The finer points of life never came in to it. Like facilities management, landlord insurance to make sure I was covered if something happened! It’s much safer and nicer for tenants nowadays – thanks to property investors who put in much more effort.
One of the oddest tv programmes of the last twenty or so years must be the one involving property bought at auction. It shows three every episode – they are mostly houses or bungalows but sometimes the odd quirky chapel, pub, working mens’ club etc. In fact, the range of unloved and seriously delapidated places is rather frightening. The idea is for the viewer to see the dump before sale and then the marvellous end result after their refurbishent and rebuild work. The common denominator is the need for the would be buyers to take a good look at the dump before the auction date and not get carried away buying something for the sake of it if their first choice goes for a higher figure than budgeted for. It is incredible how easily the first timers get sucked into the all action excitement of the bidding and then we often see the distaught looks on their faces when the host of the show interviews them and asks ‘why this one’? I do like seeing the finished results – some are absolute miracles!
With markets in a fairly depressed state, it can be very difficult to know where to invest capital. The very phrase ‘stocks and shares’ throws many folk into a state of anxious frenzy. The world knows that investmens can go down as well as up – for many, this swinging from high to low is too terrifying to contemplate risking hard £s to try out. Buying property used to be considered one of the best was to invest in a project – maybe a purchase has been made to help bolster the retirement prospects ahead of any official state payout. Knowing your markets is key – if the bottom falls out of one sector, it won’t necessarily follow that the other markets will fall. Commercial property i.e. offices, shops, commercial enterprises etc. will generally give a return of some sort – although businesses of all sorts are having to pull belts in etc. enough businesses are still operating robustly to make the job of the official landlord worthwhile.
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!