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!
I used to work i a small village travel agency – it was the latest one in a small chain of them owned and run by a family coach company. When I was growing up, my mother was the MDs personal secretary and did all his business correspondence and much of his family activities too. If there was any booking of tradesmen or repair companies, maintenance visits etc. my mother was the ‘go to’ fixer. This was very helpful to me to watch her in action – no nonsense either, if the booking was for CJ. The very name used to conjur up great respect amongst local plumbers, builders, electricians etc. To get the very best out of any group of workers, politeneness, calmness and prompt payment for services rendered were her methods. Never was anyone be too busy when Mrs M needed any work carried out on any of the firm’s travel premises or CJs country house!
When you run a villa rental portfolio in somewhere hot, like cyprus, there is inevitably going to be problems with some of the places over any given holiday period. The tenants can be a bit rough and ready, they’re out in the sun with masses of cheap(ish) alcohol and they intend to get blattered every day if they can. This doesn’t make for a very good mix where looking after the property is concerned. So one good way to resolve this siutation is to engage the services of a professional property maintenane company – they know how to spot problems before they manifest themselves into catastrophes. Missing roof tiles and broken flooring are easy to spot, but it’s things like termite damage to woodwork and warped window frames end up creating huge problems later on. Keeping on top of each property is the only way and a regular contract can sort this out once and for all.
I was attending a volunteers’ catch up meeting yesterday where I act as a hall stewrard a lot. The Hall itself was built in the late 18th Century and is a direct replacement for the substantial looking tudor pile it replaced. As much as I love the Hall as it stands with secret passages and doorways hidden along the halls, i can’t help wishing the tudor one prevailed! There is only work being carried out below stairs currently – they have received a huge grant to help open this part up and it’s proving to be the most popular area. Lots of hands on project and dressing up in Footmens’ gear. There has been no prettification, instead the organisers preferring take the advice of the heritage lotter fund and only replace anything actually broken or decayed beyond reasonable point. This element of the house has proven so popular, it could sell tours just for that.
I know of two extensive properties that have a very pressing maintenance problem in each. One has masses of wood panelling throughout the ground floor rooms and presumably the upper storeys too. This is now causing the trust that owns it a tremendous problem because the delicate nature of the wood that’s left needs to be treated with a pretty aggressive wood worm killer. There is a definite aroma that comes with this kind of treatment too. I volunteer in one of these houses – taking a discrete seat in the corner of the room and jumping to life when any visitor needs further information on a particular area of the room or floor. Knowing how much effort the holding trust has to go to every year makes me doubly careful about looking out for dangerous issues in my own humbe abode. It will be so much easier for me to deal with too.
Now looking at the pic on this month’s blog, you can’t imagine anything remotely like property problems. A gorgeous chalet in the country – a modern day roses round the door kind of place. But on closer inspection there is what I know from experience, can be a major catastrophe looming for that particular house owner. The path is very narrow, very plain and when the snow and ice comes along – hmm quite an interesting selection of pitfalls present themselves to the hapless visitor. Falling visitors aside, that tree growing up the side of the house is of course a major defect. Root damage that will unsettle any foundations that may have been laid. The branches of the tree indicae great age – another problem with trees – falling over suddenly without warning when they reach life end. So even the most idyllic scene needs property maintenance teams on hand to do routine checking and fixing of any problem spotted.
We have had the most unbelievable weather this winter – some days we’ve experienced every conceivable condition, heavy rain showers giving way to hail then sleet and drifting snow, back to bright sunshine. We can’t instantly or individually affect the weather but we can protect our major asset in life – our property. One of the first things when taking out that desperately sought mortgage is book buildings and contents insurance – this is so important and can often be considered an unwarranted expense when cash is tight. But in the case of damage to houses, the insurance is essential if the bill is high. Keeping the house maintained is vital – gutters, soffits, fascias, aerials etc. must be affuxed to stop blowing down and damaging yours or the neighbour’s property. Ensuring damp proofing is adequate and effective, making sure windows are sealed in walls and pointing secure. A property agency is able to help regularly maintain property to eliminate this worry.
My word we’ve had some rum weather of late. The autumn was so mixed, weatherwise. The summer had been pretty hot in June, lots of very very hot days, then the second week of wimbledon fortnight turned very wet and windy and this remained for another week or so. The summer holiday period was scorching hot one day, torrential rain the next and with these downpours came tremendous winds. Autumn itself was very cold and wet and now we are awaiting for frost and snow to return for a second hit. This makes the knotty problem of home and house maintenance all the more critical. When the window cleaning comes to me, he does an annual check of the gutters, fascias and soffits so if there are any problems looming, I am forewarned. The same checks need to be done for roof tiles and chimney flashings. Suffering water ingress is one of my greatest fears!
I have recently had an invitation to visit a family member who has been slowly but very surely progressing with a very large extension on the side and above the garage of his house. I was shown the plans some five or six years ago and they were still fighting the day with the local planning officers – back and forth things seemed to go until at last the coveted permission arrived. No time wasted, the project was begun and I have been privileged to watch and wonder at the various stages. This week I was shown a very well advanced shell – plumbing for the ensuites, new bathroom and downstairs facilities needed before anything else can continue. This depends on the availability of the plumber who is so good, he’s constantly booked. Nice problem to have. This is one property that has had so mucy care and thought put into the work, the problems iron themselves out.
My niece has not long moved into her second house – the first being a rather swish three floor town house in the middle of a village expressly created by the developer. It was glorious whilst she was single and didn’t mind going up and down the several sets of windy metallic to her bedroom in the crowsnest. The stairs were a pain everytime she & hubby remembered something they need up there! So they moved to an older house slotted in on a brownfield site. Masses of problems not picked up during pre purchase – gutters, leaking garage roof, kitchen sink dramas. Shower cubicle that refuses to shut and showers that didn’t deliver much water . . . . Great disappointment all round. But a property problem company her dad knows came to the rescue and within 3 months has identified and rectified many of the underlying problems. Replacing their boiler was key to many. Ah give a round for the experts!