Tag: Home

How to Secure Your Home; A Crime Prevention Checklist

How to Secure Your Home; A Crime Prevention Checklist

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Your home should be a place where you feel safe, a place where you don’t have to worry about the outside world. So what happens when there’s been a recent bout of burglaries in your area? That feeling of safety soon evaporates. Living in fear of intrusion is not something any of us should experience. Now you’re beginning to worry about how to secure your home. Fear not, our crime prevention checklist will offer a few tips to ensure you feel safe at night.

Secure Your Doors

It’s common sense that you should lock your doors. Securing your doors goes a little more in-depth than this though. Look at the sturdiness of each door. Are there any weaknesses in the hinges or locks? How strong are the frames? Could you open the door if you put enough force into it? Sometimes all that’s needed to strengthen a door is a fresh set of hinges. Has your front door got a peep hole? Has it got a reliable deadlock? When buying a front door, don’t substitute safety for an option which looks good. Don’t forget to look at your back door too, often these are weaker and easier points of entry.

Strengthen Your Windows

Windows can be an attractive point of entry for burglars. Hinges can be flimsy, glass can be easily broken and sometimes, windows are simple to open from the outside. Scrutinise what protection your windows offer. Consider purchasing fresh locks and even reinforcing the glass for added protection. Do this for every window in your house. Furthermore, never forget to lock your windows before leaving the house.

Security Systems

The best deterrent for burglars is a solid security system. Whether you’re choosing cameras, alarms or a fully monitored system should be decided by your individual needs. Often, a security system in plain sight is enough to deter any attempt of burglary. Obviously there’s a significant cost associated with this but it’s worth it in the long run.

Light Up

The majority of burglars in the UK will strike during the day. If however, they choose to operate at night, a motion sensor light is a huge deterrent. This means as soon as a possible intruder approaches the house, they’re basked in a bright light for all to see.

Burglar Alarms

Remove the Hiding Places

This is quite a crude tip but it’s effective nonetheless. Remove any hiding opportunity for intruders. This includes any large bushes or shrubbery close to your door. This type of vegetation looks great but will allow an intruder extra time to analyse the house before breaking in. It will also allow them to conceal their entrance to the building.

Get the Entire Household on Board

If you live in a full house, all it takes to leave your house vulnerable is for one person to neglect security. If you’re securing your house, get everyone in the household on board. This includes children. Ensure everyone is aware of the need to lock doors and windows when they leave.

Talk to the Neighbours

Get friendly with the neighbours, explain your concerns and ask for their vigilance too. If you’re going away for an extended period of time, ask them to look out for your property. A good relationship with those living nearby will allow you to share your concerns.

Leave Valuables Out of Sight

Burglars will look through your windows before entry. If they can see valuables, keys and important documents, you’re making yourself a target. Keep anything important away from prying eyes. This includes passports and banks cards – identity theft can reap huge rewards.

Get a Dog

This is one of the greatest deterrents for any intruder. Dogs make a noise when they don’t recognise you – something every burglar wants to avoid. Often the bark is scarier than the bite so even small terriers can be enough to scare an intruder away.

Don’t Be the Low Hanging Fruit

A thief won’t just look at your house. They’ll take a walk around the neighbourhood and opt for the easiest target. Don’t be the low hanging fruit on your street. Look at the security measures of other houses and question which property would be the easiest to target. If it’s yours, you have a big problem that needs your attention.

What Does a Burglar Look For?

Thankfully, numerous reformed burglars have discussed their trade. This gives us an insight into what a burglar actually looks for when targeting a house. If you know what attracts thieves, you can work to ensure you’re not a target. Here’s what a burglar looks for:

  • Dust or cobwebs on a deadlock keyhole – a clear sign it’s not used
  • Open windows
  • Dusty house alarm – a clear sign it’s not used
  • Family calendar on show – thieves love to see your schedule
  • Keys on labelled hooks
  • Important documents in sight
  • No car on the driveway – looks like you’re out
  • Ladders and tools at easy reach – most burglars won’t take tools with them, they’ll look for yours
  • Weak rear garden fencing

Moving home and concerned about crime in your new neighbourhood? A Property Detective report will offer key insights into an area’s crime rate. Other information available includes amenities, schools, neighbourhood demographics, noise pollution and more. Get your Property Detective report here.

10 Weird & Wonderful UK Home Conversions

10 Weird and Wonderful UK Home Conversions

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Every few months, the inner pages of newspapers will be plastered with the latest outrageous home conversion. We love this type of news, the ingenuity of some conversions is admirable. So, as a bit of fun, we thought we’d bring you our favourite 10 weird and wonderful UK home conversions. Be prepared, this could just give you a little renovation inspiration.

10. Water Pumping Station Conversion – Ikley, West Yorkshire (£725,000)

Built in 1848, this Yorkshire pumping station has been redesigned as an open plan, two storey luxury home. Stylish, cool and equipped with a modern interior, this property boasts three bedrooms, two bathrooms and two reception areas. There’s even a cinema room too!

Water Pumping Station Conversion - Yorkshire
Image courtesy of Home DSGN

9. Spitbank Fort Conversion – Solent, Near Portsmouth Harbour (Hotel Accomodation)

Okay so it’s not actually a house but we couldn’t help featuring Spitbank Fort in this list. Originally built as a line of defence against enemy attack on the Solent and Portsmouth, the fort has since been converted into a luxurious hotel. Boasting nine exquisite suites, stunning panoramic views and a tranquil setting, the site can be hired out for venues and events.

Spitbank Fort Conversion

8. Cove Park Container Conversion – Rosneath Peninsula, Scotland

Sitting in a centre for creative professionals on the west coast of Scotland, these converted shipping containers offer temporary stay for artists. With a layer of grass covering the roof and decked balcony, these containers offer some pretty extraordinary views of Loch Long. The interior is bright and simply furnished with small porthole windows to allow extra daylight.

Cove Park Container Conversions
Image courtesy of Container City

7. Railway Station Conversion – Bredenbury (£495,000)

Originally a Great Western Railway Station, this converted two bedroom house with additional accommodation is a quaint and picturesque property. Boasting 2.76 acres overall, the land included comprises of the station building, former parcel office, garage/workshop and parking. The lucky owner would also lay claim to the railway track and trolley sheds too. It’s the ideal home for any railway enthusiast.

Railway Station Conversion
Image courtesy of Hereford Times

6. Radar Station Conversion – North Berwick, Scotland (£2,500,000)

It’s not every day you find an old military outpost converted into a luxury home. Found deep in rural Scotland, this wartime structure has been converted into an impressive two-storey property. With 6.24 acres of land, two paddocks and an additional detached two-storey, four bedroom house, this really is a quality buy.

Radar Station Conversion
Image courtesy of WowHaus

5. Water Tower Conversion – Kennington, London (£4,700,000)

The spectacular 99 foot tall water tower is the perfect example of a couple seeing an opportunity in unusual property. Originally part of the Lambeth Workhouse and Infirmary (then Lambeth Hospital), the building has 5 foot thick walls and a large steel water tank at the top. When bought, the building was in a poor condition. Now it boasts four bedrooms, a lift shaft and a 360 degree view of London. There’s an additional modern living space at the bottom, appropriately nicknamed the Cube.

Water Tower Conversion Kennington
Image courtesy of Home Dit

4. St John’s Church Conversion – Hertfordshire (£2,500,000)

Coming with an acre of land, 4-5 bedrooms and an exceptionally well designed interior, this award winning church conversion is a grade two listed building. Sitting in a picturesque Hertfordshire village, the building offers three floors, a vaulted ceiling and bold stain glass windows.

St John's Church Conversion
Image courtesy of Evening Standard Home & Property

3. Nuclear Bunker Conversion – Mill Hill, London (£4,500,000)

A 1950s nuclear bunker in North London doesn’t sound like the most attractive place to lay your hat but you’ll be surprised with this one. The site, originally built to protect local politicians in the 1950s, is now a luxury mansion set on protected green belt land. With 1.5m thick walls on the ground floor and 1.5 acres of grounds, there’s plenty to get excited about.

Nuclear Bunker Conversion Mill Hill
Image Courtesy of Subbrit

2. Water Tower Conversion – Hertford (£795,000)

The small town of Hertford is host to more than just a Pizza Express. It also happens to be the home of an exquisite converted water tower. The historic building is now a three bedroom residence with an intriguing interior. Sitting on three floors, the circular building presents an American Oak spiral staircase in its core leading up to spacious bedrooms and living areas. The garden’s pretty beautiful too.

Water Tower Conversion Hertford
Image courtesy of Money Week

1. Underhill House Barn Conversion – Cotswolds

This is a pretty extraordinary conversion. Originally a derelict 300 year old stone structure sitting on top of a hill in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Any conversion taking place would have serious difficulty obtaining planning permission. This didn’t deter the Underhill House project. Also designed as the first Passivhaus in England (a German standard that offers 90% less carbon emissions than average homes). The build was granted planning permission via a policy which allows special treatment for ‘truly outstanding and ground-breaking’ properties offering ‘the highest standards in contemporary architecture’. To put this into perspective, this is only one of twenty properties in the UK to be accepted by this rule.

Underhill House Barn Conversion
Image courtesy of Seymour-Smith Architects

If you’re moving house (or even converting a property), it’s worthwhile finding out about the local area. With our reports, you can find out the latest information on amenities, schools, demographics, crime rates, noise pollution and much more. Get your Property Detective report here.

Want to build your own house, here's what to consider

Want to Build Your Own House? Here’s What to Consider

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If you’re a fan of Grand Designs you’ve probably found yourself contemplating building your own home. If you’ve got the money, time and drive, it’s a genuine possibility. We’re not saying you should rush out tomorrow and start laying the foundations of your dream home. It’s a truly epic feat that needs to be done properly. However, if you want to build your own house, here’s what to consider first.

Benefits of Building Your Own House

So let’s first look at a few reasons why people opt for self-builds. Here are a few benefits of building your own home:

  • If done properly, self-builds will be worth far more than the cost of construction.
  • You can have the freedom to included added features which are either uncommon or very costly in other homes e.g. energy efficient features.
  • You can add luxury features which would also cost significantly more if added to an existing home.
  • You have complete stylistic freedom – your home will be a reflection of yourself.

A Huge Time Commitment

No matter how you go about the process, building is a massive commitment. Imagine taking up an additional part-time (sometimes full-time) job on the side. Your time is going to be seriously stretched. Unfortunately, you can’t suddenly walk away if it all becomes too much. Building a house will teach you about the importance of patience. Often, the process will take a number of years. Know exactly what you’re getting into.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Can you actually afford this? It’s a genuine question. You need to scrutinise your budget. Furthermore, be sure to over-estimate on everything – and we really mean everything. Many hidden costs are lurking around the corner, you need to be able to handle these. Consider every possibility. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to allow at least 10% of your budget for unexpected costs. If you finish building and haven’t spent it, you’ve got a little extra to play with for interior design.

Get Some Land

Before you can start building, you need some land to work with. Now, this can be a frustrating time. You’ll need planning permission as well as an understanding of rules and regulations. It’s not always easy to find land. Often advertisements are in short supply. Ask around, often estate agents, auction houses, architects or even the local planning office will be able to assist you with your search. Take a look at The Self Build Portal too, they offer a wealth of knowledge on the self-build process.

Get the Right People on Board

Not got any prior experience of building a home? You’re not the only one. Whether you opt for a package supplier, an architect or designer, you need to be confident you’re working with the right people. Find someone who will invest themselves in your vision. It’s also important to take a look at the reputation of any builders/contractors you use. You need to be able to trust these people with bringing your dream to fruition.

Think About Interior Design Early

Okay, we’re not saying you should think about which picture will go on which wall. What we are saying is that you should have an understanding of where your furniture will go, what the actual layout will be like and how it will actually look. No one wants to build a house and realise they’ve not accounted for storage space.

Think About Resale

Irrelevant of whether you’re building to sell on or not, it’s important to consider how your decisions will affect resale value. You never know what your circumstances will be in five or ten years. It’s great to personalise the house and add your own unique touches but don’t do anything that would damage the future value.

Consider Going Green

Building a house is a great way to go green. It’s difficult and costly to make an existing house sustainable. When you’re building a new one, it can just become part of the process. You won’t need to fork out a ridiculous amount of money for it either. Going green can lower future running costs and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside too!

Research and Plan everything

Above everything, when building a new home you can’t allow yourself to be surprised. Research and plan everything to perfection. This is a huge investment of time, money and effort. It will pay off but you’ll have to go through a lot of strain first. Don’t let anything creep up on you. Good luck!

Be sure you know what to expect from the area you’re moving into. Find out about the local amenities, schools, noise pollution, crime rates, local demographics and more with a property detective report.

What is Stamp Duty? How much will I pay?

What is Stamp Duty? How Much Will I Pay?

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Buying a house is expensive and difficult. When you get towards the all-important business end of the deal, it’s vital to question everything and seek clarity on all aspects of the process. So let’s deal with the elephant in the room. What is Stamp Duty? And how much will you pay? We all know you need to pay Stamp Duty, but what do you actually know about it?

What is Stamp Duty?

First-time buyers have a lot to think about!

When you buy a home in England, Northern Ireland or Wales costing more than £125,000, you need to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax. If you’re buying a second home, this drops to £40,000. If you’re buying a second home or buy-to-let you’ll also have to pay an additional 3% in Stamp Duty as well as current rates.

What About Scotland?

You don’t actually have to pay Stamp Duty in Scotland. Before you pack up your bags and head north, Scottish home buyers don’t get away that easily. An almost identical tax exists named the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. It’s the same style of lump sum tax – the only difference is the thresholds. More about that later.

How Much Will I Pay?

The more expensive a property, the more stamp duty you’ll have to pay. This goes up in bands and you’ll have to pay a percentage of the cost. You do however only pay the higher percentage on what is above that threshold.

Below you can find a table to help you with working out your Stamp Duty Land Tax:

Stamp Duty Table

Below is a table to help those living in Scotland work out their Land and Buildings Transaction Tax:

Land and Buildings Tax Rate Table

Money Saving Expert offer the following example to better illustrate this:

England, Northern Ireland and Wales:
If buying a property for £300,000
You pay nothing below £125,000, which is £0
You pay 2% on between £125,000 and £250,000, which is £2,500
You pay 5% on the value of the property above £250,000, which is £2,500
So in total this means you’ll pay £5,000 (£0+£2,500+£2,500).

Scotland:
If buying a property for £300,000
You pay nothing below £145,000, which is £0
You pay 2% on between £145,000 and £250,000, which is £2,100
You pay 5% on the value of the property above £250,000, which is £2,500
So in total this means you’ll pay £4,600 (£0+£2,100+£2,500).

If you don’t want the fuss with working out how much Stamp Duty you’ll pay, The Money Advice Service offer a handy Stamp Duty Calculator here.

How is Stamp Duty Paid?

Once you’ve completed the home buying process (signed the contract, received the keys) you’ve got 30 days to pay Stamp Duty. If you don’t pay within this time, you could be fined and charged interest. Your solicitor usually deals with this and will encourage you to pay immediately. Some are known to require the cash before completing the purchase. Having said this, the legal responsibility is yours – so don’t neglect it.

If you’re moving home, be sure to get a full and comprehensive understanding of your new area. Fill out a property detective report and find all you need to know about local amenities, noise, crime rates, schools, flight paths and more. Enter your postcode to view your Property Detective report here.

What Makes a House a Home?

What Makes A House A Home?

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So many people talk about the stress of moving. The truth is, the immediate time after moving house can be pretty uncomfortable too. After all, you’re living in a strange building which isn’t yet home. This got us thinking, what makes a house a home? We suspect this is likely to vary from person to person and we’re intrigued to hear what you’d say. So we crawled social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit for inspiration and then took to the streets of London to get the view of the general public. Here’s what we found.

Books, Films & Music

Many people said it’s all about the books, films and music. This is pretty natural actually. All these collections are a true and accurate portrayal of our likes and dislikes. If you’re the type of person who builds a personal connection with the books they read or music they listen to, your collection is like an extended family photo album.

Pets Misbehaving

So the most common answer we had was pet related. Not just the furry friends being around but misbehaving too. We associate this behaviour with home because this is how you know a pet is comfortable. Once a pet is comfortable, their owner will be too. Also one Reddit user told us that a house isn’t a home until they find ginger cat hair everywhere – we’ll pass on that one.

The Family Heirlooms

A house isn’t a home until it’s littered with your family heirlooms. You know that strange painting which you don’t actually like but you put up anyway because it came from a long lost great uncle? Well that could actually be the missing ingredient.

The Memories You Make

Lots of you told us that memories make a house a home. This is bad news for new home owners, you’re probably not going to feel ‘at home’ for quite some time. You can’t force this one.

The Smell of Home Cooking

Ah now this is an answer we can really get behind. We had plenty of people talk about home cooking. It’s not surprising really. When you think of your childhood home, you often think back to the food you ate there. The smell of cooking can evoke powerful images of home that can’t be ignored.

Internet Connection

A surprising amount of people said that internet connection and instant access to WiFi gave a homely feel. Others mentioned their collection of tech devices gave them a feel of comfort. A sure fire sign we’re reaching a new age.

The Imperfections

“The imperfections are what makes a home unique,” replied an elderly gentleman when asked. This is a strange concept but one which makes sense. He elaborated; “at first everything is new and fresh, you love it and can’t believe it’s yours. Then things start going wrong. Floorboards creak and doors won’t shut properly. You learn and memorise you way around your home. These are the things you’ll miss.”

A Few Random Answers

As with every survey like this, we encountered some silly, unusual and downright hilarious answers. When asking ‘what makes a house a home?’ here are some of the best answers we had:

  • The spelling
  • A hat rack
  • The toilet (and what you do in it)
  • A witty welcome mat
  • One of those tacky ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ signs in the kitchen

A house can’t be a home if the location isn’t right. If you’re looking to move, find out all you need to know about an area with a Property Detective report. Find out about the local amenities, schools, flight paths, noise complaints, crime rates and more here.

House Viewing Checklist: Get the most out of your property hunt

House Viewing Checklist: Get the Most From your Property Hunt

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So, house hunting is tough! The problem is, you’re often so excited about the possibility of finding your dream home that you overlook the details that actually need your attention. It’s always good to be prepared for viewings. This is where we come into the frame. We’ve put together a handy house viewing checklist so you don’t have to worry. Get the most from your property hunt and good luck out there, it can be wild.

A Few Tips to Start

First thing’s first, before we start telling you about what you need to look for, let’s offer a few insights. It’s important to do some thorough research!

Here are some solid tips that’ll give your home hunt a helping hand:

  • Do a drive by – Have a look at the outside of the property and surrounding area. Sometimes this can be enough to put you off a property.
  • Never go alone – It’s important to attend the viewing with a friend, family member or partner. A second pair of eyes is always helpful – especially if you fall in love with the property.
  • Be friendly – Remember you’re trying to buy this property (usually for less than the asking price). You’re likely to be competing with others. Make yourself memorable and build rapport with the seller.
  • Inspect, don’t move in – It’s tough but when viewing a property, you should inspect it. Don’t mentally move in before you’ve bought it. A dream home soon turns into a haunted house if there are some serious underlying issues you’ve missed.
  • View more than once – Be eager and pop round more than once. This will show interest and help you spot potential problems.
  • Spend as long as you want – Don’t just rush around the house quickly. View for an extended period of time. Get a feel for the house and its pros & cons.

House Viewing Checklist

Get a pen and paper ready – here’s what you should be looking for when viewing a property:

  • Structure – Check the exterior, look for damp, cracks in walls, loose tiles, broken guttering, etc. Ask questions about any issues you find.
  • What do you smell? – Have a sniff around (literally). Any musty smells or bad drainage?
  • What can you hear? – Any noisy neighbours or train lines nearby?
  • Check the taps – What’s the water pressure like? How long does it take for hot water to come through?
  • Let there be light – Do the light switches work?
  • Check for fresh paint – A common way to hide damp is by painting over it.
  • Check the bills – No one likes nasty surprises. Know what to expect.
  • Boiler – What’s the condition and age like?
  • Any renovations? – Ask about any work that’s been done on the property.
  • Land – See what land comes with the property and what you’re actually buying.
  • What’s included? – Sometimes white goods can come with the house. If they do, check out what condition they’re in.
  • Cupboards and draws – Are they functional and clean?
  • Storage – Is there sufficient storage available?
  • Layout – Will your furniture fit? Is the floorplan desirable?
  • Damp – Search every corner, ceiling and window.
  • Windows – Look for condensation, cracking sealant as well as rotten/broken frames.
  • Phone signal? – It’s pretty frustrating if your home has a poor reception.
  • Walls – Are there any ‘ripples’ in the wallpaper?
  • Any trees? – Excess leaves and trees can cause structural issues.
  • Pollution – Pollution in the surrounding area is becoming an increasing issue for homeowners.
  • Japanese knotweed – This horror plant can ruin your chances of getting a mortgage and cost £20,000 to remove.
  • Council tax – How much is the council tax?
  • Parking – Check to see whether you have an allocated parking spot. If not, is there adequate parking for you?

Don’t forget checking out the neighbourhood too. When moving into a home, it’s important to understand what the crime rates, noise pollution, amenities and local schools are liked. Thankfully, with a Property Detective report, you can find all this and more.