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!
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.