I’ve recently been in contact with some chaps who are busy building a fantastic holiday apartment in a tiny wee village in Cyprus. They’ve got a portfolio of seriously luxury end holiday rental homes. This latest is by far their most challenging a the terrain is seriusly rocky and there have been massive family arguments and fallings out. Over there land and property is left to the female side of the family – usually plots have been held in one family for centuries and this way ensures each generation has some scope for building if they so need. In the case of the 2 guys, the land was left to one of them by his father who had bought it as part of a syndicate . . . . . The scheme was granted all the permissions needed and so building commenced . . . . . without either owner being present. Bad move. Cypriot builders and developers are a very odd bunch! Communication is bad enough all year round but somewhat exscerbated when a steadying hand isn’t around.
You’d be amazed at the number of folk in one small housing development who manage to find something to do on their houses and gardens every hour of every day. . . . Where I live it’s quiet during the normal Monday to Friday week. The children are at school, most homes have both parents out working and so only a few of us home workers are around. Weekends of course are another matter completely – it can be bedlem at times! However this noise factor has been spread throughout the week lately – enforced quarantining. Power washing of the driveway and patio seems to be the major Monday task. Lawn mowing and scarifying on Wednesdays, as is now the clearing of the junk to the tip on Wed to Sundays. Lots of these executive detached houses are rented out permanently so management companies get their contractors to sort out problems inside but also deal with the gardens and landscaping. I’ve noted too that they get involved with maintaining the exterior of the properties by way of guttering and de-mossing of rooftops.
One of the key features of property maintenance plans is to ensure the unexpected doesn’t happen. Facilities management is a contractural arrangement with a company that literally does do all the supplies of hardware supplies; check, repairs or refit as necessary etc. for a monthly fee. This should involve ensuring all the legal aspects of the building are kept completely up to date. Knowing the lie of the land is sometimes overlooked when companies take on contracts. Are they aware of all the pipelines and utilities going in to the property; do they know whether the trees in the garden or just outside the wall/fence, are stable and who actually owns the land – the land boundary may not be as it first seems. This is very relevant if the tree falls or is blown over after hundreds of years of blissfull splendour. Ensuring the company holds really watertight personal and public liability insurance is critical – should that tree come down, injuring people and neigbouring properties. Knowing who owns trees, whether there are preservation orders on any and who to contact about them is a far more important matter than many contractors think.
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.