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Proenergis Chartered Surveyors
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Chartered Surveyors in Nottingham
Chartered Surveyors in Nottingham

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Is your Carbon Monoxide Detector Dangerous?

Following a Which? report two types of carbon monoxide alarms have been removed from sale by both e-Bay and Amazon.

The alarms branded “Bimwo” and “Mudder” have both been proved to be dangerous in tests carried out by the Which? magazine. Tests were being carried out in order, potentially, to label the items as good value for money and good buys, but it ended up with Which? having to label them “don’t buy” and pushing for them to removed from the market.

The Which? tests were based on European Standards for CO2 carbon monoxide alarms which both alarms claim to have passed.

Samples of both alarms failed to go off when tested. Three alarms by Bimwo failed to go off in four out of five tests and one of the three Mudder alarms didn’t go off in three tests.

Both unreliable alarms also state that they should not be fitted in kitchens. As kitchens are where the majority of gas boilers are sited, this is somewhat of a significant concern. The findings have been shared by Which? with the Trading Standards and industry bodies. Their tests are currently ongoing.

Both eBay and Amazon have stopped marketing the two alarms.

If you are buying a carbon monoxide alarm, be safe. Only buy an alarm with the kite mark which shows the alarm has been fully tested to the European standard. Both the Bimwo and the Mudder alarms, although claiming to pass the European standards, did not have the kite mark and did not meet the standards when tested.

If you have one of these alarms it should be replaced at the first available opportunity and if you are buying a carbon monoxide detector, we would suggest that you strongly consider buying one from a different manufacturer and make sure it has a kite mark.

A surveyor’s view on adding value to your home:

For those of us lucky enough to own property, it can be easy to forget that the building you call home is also your largest financial asset.

For as long as you are simply living in the property without thought of the next stage, its value won’t be your highest concern. But when it comes to selling up, you will be pleased that you put some forethought into achieving the best possible value early.

As surveyors, we’re often asked to consider what could make a given property more valuable and the answer can usually be broken down into two, key sections – space and saleability.

Space

A residential valuation by an independent professional (usually a chartered surveyor registered to the RICS valuation scheme) is typically calculated using the comparable method, with the assistance of an adjustment matrix.

The valuer will assess similar properties in the area, break their value down to a m2 basis and then adjust these figures to make allowances for their differences to the subject property – like age, construction quality and parking. They can then take a view as to which value most accurately reflects the subject property, and multiply that value by the floor area to reach a final valuation.

That means that the most effective way to increase the value of your property, can be to add space. If you increase the usable floor area, you add value to that surveyor’s calculation.

Easier said than done of course!

Viable options can be adding a conservatory, building an extension, adding a room above a garage or converting a loft-space into a room-in-roof.

With any significant change to your property, however, do not forget the planning element. Some changes will come under permitted development, but these rights have stringent restrictions – potentially augmented by conservation area or listed building regulations – and proceeding without being absolutely sure of the requirements can end in disaster.

We recommend that you speak with your local council’s planning office before settling on a given plan.

Saleability

Interestingly, saleability is not considered technically part of the valuation equation. Referring back to that note of a surveyor’s valuation process, saleability does not factor into either side of the core sum.

That being said, the real benefit of increasing the attractiveness of your property lies in generating interest when it comes to sale time.

If your property is coveted by one family, then that potential buyer is in a strong position. But if your property is sufficiently attractive to warrant attention from several buyers, then the position of strength lies with the seller. An attractive property is, in this way, more likely to achieve or exceed its value.

The key to achieving that scenario is therefore to attract buyers away from similar properties, which requires differentiating factors.

Attractive and unusual features like a waterfall shower, modern fitted kitchen and Jacuzzi bath can achieve this, making them potentially useful investments.

In general terms, keep saleability in mind when you replace parts of your home. If you know you’re not going to remain in the property indefinitely, then keep your future purchaser in mind. Would they like your favourite edgy, metallic kitchen fittings or would they prefer something more traditional? Would they enjoy your lurid green and yellow tiles, or would they prefer something more neutral?

This concept can also be considered in the context of changing property markets. At the time of writing the property market is burgeoning almost without exception across the country, but a change in this can come at any time. When it does, properties with features attractive enough to entice a smaller pool of potential buyers will stand the best chance of achieving sale in a reasonable time-frame and at a reasonable price.

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July is Property Scam Awareness Month
There has been a worrying increase in the volume and variety of scams which are out to remove money from unsuspecting people. We all know that if something seems too good to be true, then it is. No ‘if’s or ‘but’s – it is not true. However, there is a property scam which can happen to you without you being aware of it!

The way the scam works is that the unscrupulous person will pose as a tenant, and then put the house up for sale in the name of the (absentee) landlord. He (or she) will probably have counterfeit documentation showing their identity, and unless very stringent tests are made, the criminal will fool the agents, the solicitors, and, of course, the would-be purchasers.

Your property is most at risk if it is rented out or empty, some distance from where you live, isn’t mortgaged and/or isn’t on the register. Most properties will be on the register if they have changed hands since the 1990’s – if it has been in the same ownership for longer than that, there is a way to check on the Land Registry website – https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry.

The Land Registry have launched Property Scam Awareness Month to highlight the possible traps by which property owners can be snared. On their website, they suggest steps you can take to “protect your land and property from fraud”. The type of fraud they mean is an extension of identity theft, where an imposter takes out a loan on – or even sells – your property. These measures include ensuring the property is registered with the Land Registry, as they will send a letter to the appropriate address when something occurs – if your address isn’t on their records, the letter gets sent to the property itself, right into the hands of the scammer.

A case reported in The Mail in December shows how easy it is. The new tenant put the property in London up for sale almost immediately he took possession of the keys, and didn’t even move any furniture in. The owner of the property was abroad, and relied upon the agency management to check references etc. The house was sold for £1.3million – the purchaser had sent a cheque to a bank in Dubai, and had even made arrangements for builders to fit a new kitchen before being informed that the house belonged to someone else.

The Land Registry now offer an alert scheme, whereby they will send you an email if any attempt is made to make a financial transaction in regard to a property you have asked them to monitor. This will act as an early warning should a criminal have intent to commit fraud. There is no fee for monitoring up to 10 properties, and more than one person can monitor an address – it is thought that people might want to monitor the addresses of elderly or vulnerable relatives. The sign up page is here. https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/

Environmental Reports.

Has anyone ever really gained anything useful from a Landmark Environmental Report? These are searches recommended for house buyers often by Solicitors. They are prepared without a visit to the area or any sort of actual survey. The reports are anonymous and you cant speak to anyone about the content of the reports. The buyers then ask us to comment on their findings which seems wrong. We wouldnt expect them to comment on our reports contents. My advice...don't waste your money.

Beware the pit-falls of being a Buy-to-Let landlord.

Rental prices are rising almost as fast as house prices. More people are looking for somewhere to live than there are homes available for them. Savings rates are still pitifully low. So why wouldn’t someone want to invest in a buy-to-let?
It seems a simple, sensible investment solution – resulting in better returns on your savings, both in monthly income and capital growth (potentially).
However, it is not simple at all. There are a great many pit-falls for landlords to fall into, not least of which is the red tape imposed by government and councils.

So here are some top tips we’ve gleaned from working with Landlords across the country:

Location is key
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential tenant – is it near to schools, colleges or universities? What are the transport links like? Is the area nice to live in? Visit the area at various times of the day and night to see for yourself. Is it close to where you live so you can deal with any issues quickly? (If you’re going to use an agent, that is not necessarily relevant, but if you are doing the work on the property yourself, that is very important.)

Get the best price for the property
Don’t be afraid to haggle, especially if the property requires some work done to it before letting out. You are investing thousands of pounds, and possibly having a mortgage to do so, so it’s important that you get a good deal. A surveyor’s report can help here.

What rent can you charge?
If there is a mortgage, the lender may have strict rules about this, e.g. at least 125% of the monthly mortgage repayment. Do some research into rental prices nearby, and/or get advice from local letting agencies. Shop around for the best agency deal, if you are going down that route. Checkout the council tax, water rates etc for your tenants – will they be willing to pay these on top of your rent? The rent will have to cover overheads like insurance, maintenance, repairs and replacement of equipment, as well as a contingency for periods when the property is empty.You might consider an extra chunk for risk as well, particularly for when your variable rate mortgage suddenly jumps a few percentage points.
Don’t forget, in a rising market you might be wise to insert a rent review clause if you are looking at a lease longer than, say, two years. There’s always a possibility that you’ll have to adjust the rent down, but most likely you’ll be able to justify an increase with the help of a professional valuer’s report.

Shop around for mortgages
Maybe use a mortgage broker who has good knowledge of the products available. Work out your Annual Return on Investment like this: Calculate a year’s rental income, and subtract the annual mortgage cost. Divide this figure by the equity you had to put into the property to secure it initially, and the result – multiply by 100 to get a percentage – is your rate of return.
Remember that property prices may not continue to rise, and allow for the possibility of having to sell up at a loss if the going gets tough. The smaller the mortgage element, the less likely you are to get burned in this way. Hopefully, you will have – or be able to build up – a fund to cover emergencies and empty periods.

So now to the property itself
How you decorate it and/or furnish it depends on the type of tenant you are looking for. Students might like it simple and easy to clean, whereas professionals might prefer something more luxurious. Young families might prefer a blank canvas to bring their own possessions in and personalise it.
Vet your proposed tenants carefully – check references properly or have your letting agent do so. Ensure your tenancy agreement covers every aspect of the property maintenance – be clear about whether the tenant can decorate, put up shelves, knock down walls etc. Have a long conversation about why they’re moving and get some rapport going. Let them know that they can call you with any problems and not let them escalate into something major.
Lastly, but not at all ‘leastly’, make sure you follow the rules and regulations, keep careful financial records, maintain the property and pay your taxes. If your total income – from rental or otherwise – is more than the current Income Tax Threshold, then you will have to pay tax on it. There are reliefs you can claim on interest on the mortgage but these are being squeezed down. Also, tax relief for maintenance costs are not staying at the 10% flat rate – by next April (2016) claims for maintenance will have to be backed up by receipts and proof.

Loft converter hit with huge fine after tragic death of 16-year old labourer.

Labourer Alfie Perrin was working for loft conversion company Rooftop Rooms Ltd on 14th November 2012, when he fell from scaffolding and sustained head injuries he would not recover from.
The death was investigated by officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide and Major Crime Command together with the Health and Safety Executive, who established that Perrin had been instructed to clear rubbish and debris from the rear roof area of the two storey house.
He was doing so by transferring the materials over the flat roof of the dormer extension and down to the pitched roof at the front of the house, where he was told to throw the material into the skip on the ground.
Unfortunately, there was no edge protection around the flat dormer roof and the scaffold platform had a large gap at one end where a ladder should have been fitted or scaffold poles used to reduce the risk of falls. Neither measure was in place.
When he threw a bag of rubble into the skip, he lost balance and fell. Though he was treated at the scene, he later died in hospital.
Pleading guilty to failure to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act and failing to conduct the loft conversion in Camden Road ‘in such a way as to ensure that persons not in its employment were not exposed to risks to their health and safety’, the company was fined a substantial £325,000. In addition, they were ordered to pay the Crown’s costs of £12,187.78 and health and safety costs of a further £7,337.84.
Construction remains the most deadly profession in the UK, with 39 fatalities in 2012-13 alone.
Health and Safety is taken extremely seriously, with fines consequently large to discourage abuses, but cases like that of the tragically young Alfie Perrin remain all too common.

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The importance of getting a proper survey and not relying on just a valuation.

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When did Building Regulations first come in?

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3000 new homes to be built creating a new Notts town.
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