“This month We Talk – Gardens, How To Save Money, Securing your Home & Safe Savings”

Add Value to Your Garden This Spring

Gardens have long been desirable and known to add value to property, and with the increase in hybrid working in recent years, the desire for outdoor space can make for a key area that can add both value and appeal to your home.

If your property has a garden, we’ve put together a few ideas that may help enhance its value and charm this Springtime, especially if you are looking to advertise your home for sale in due course.

1. Present Your Garden Well

A well-maintained garden, though it may not directly add monetary value, significantly impacts buyers’ perceptions if you’re looking to sell your home in the near future. A neglected garden can deter potential buyers, making garden upkeep as essential as home maintenance. Key steps include:

  • Feeding, mowing, and watering the lawn.
  • Removing weeds from lawns, flower beds, paths, and patios.
  • Repairing damaged fencing or trellis, and treating with wood preserver or paint.
  • Cutting back overgrown plants or trees.
  • Jet washing pathways and patio slabs.

2. Showcase Your Entertaining Space

Outdoor entertaining spaces can really enhance the appeal of a garden. You could consider –

  • Installing a larger patio area.
  • Building a deck space for barbecues. Buyers may be more likely to be drawn to spaces where they can entertain family and friends, so an inviting outdoor area can significantly boost your property’s appeal.

3. Stage Your Garden

Just as staging the interior of a home can help sell it, staging your garden can have a similar effect. By setting up a table and chairs on your patio or deck and adding a parasol, you help buyers visualise themselves enjoying the space, which can make your home more appealing.

4. Show Off Your Garden’s Practical Side

Storage is a top priority for buyers, and this extends to garden spaces. A well-maintained garden shed for storing bikes, lawnmowers, and other equipment is a strong selling point. Ensure the shed is secure with strong padlocks and regularly maintained.

5. Make Your Garden Secure

Security is crucial for buyers with pets or children. Ensure your garden is safe by filling any gaps in fences or gates and adding locks where necessary. A secure garden can be a significant asset and increase your property’s attractiveness.

6. Add Planting to ‘Complete’ Your Garden

A ‘move-in ready’ garden, much like a well-decorated house, is a strong selling point. Adding mature plants can make the garden feel complete. If you’re not keen on extensive gardening, potted plants are a great alternative. They add colour and can be taken with you when you move.

7. Add a Water Feature

Unique features like water elements can make your garden stand out. Water features create a tranquil atmosphere and make your garden more appealing to buyers, adding a sense of uniqueness and charm.

8. Be Creative with Outdoor Lighting

Lighting can transform your garden, especially for evening viewings. Quality outdoor lighting adds ambiance and highlights your garden’s best features, making it more attractive to potential buyers.

9. Add a Focal Point

Adding a summerhouse or garden office can provide a stunning focal point and practical space. These structures can serve various purposes, from playrooms for families to home offices for professionals, enhancing your garden’s usability and appeal.

10. Make It Private

Privacy is a major concern for many buyers. If your garden is overlooked, it can detract from its value. Creating privacy with hedges, relocating patios or decks to secluded corners, or using climbing plants and privacy screens can solve this issue.

How Much Value Does a Garden Add?

In cities, a well-maintained garden can add over £45,000 to a property’s value1, potentially increasing it by up to 20%1. Given these figures, investing in your garden is well worth the effort. From adding practical storage to creating beautiful, private spaces, enhancing your garden can significantly boost your home’s appeal and value.

Do Garden Buildings Add Value?

Yes, structures like sheds, garages, and garden rooms add substantial value by providing additional storage and living space. Home offices can be especially appealing to buyers who need work-from-home spaces.

By following these tips, you can transform your garden into a valuable asset, helping to making your home more appealing to buyers and potentially increasing its market value.

Sources

Good Homes (2019) How to increase your home’s value by over £45,000. Available at: https://www.goodhomesmagazine.com/garden/increase-home-value/ [Accessed 21 May 2024]

How to Save Money When Buying a Home

Buying a home is one of the most significant purchases you’ll ever make. While it’s exciting to imagine your new space, it’s crucial to keep your finances in check. Here are some fun and practical ways to save money during your home-buying journey.

Know Your Budget and Stick to It

Before you start hunting for your next property, determine how much you can afford. We’ll help you find out what the estimated monthly payments could be on properties, by looking at your exact circumstances and making recommendations tailored to you. This can help you set a realistic budget and prevent you from falling in love with a property that’s out of your price range. Remember, your budget should include not just the purchase price, but also key costs you’re likely to face – be it council tax, any new build estate fees if applicable, insurance, maintenance, and other related costs for example.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

A mortgage pre-approval, or decision-in-principle, can help to give you a clear picture of how much you can borrow and shows sellers that you’re a serious buyer. This can give you an edge in negotiations and possibly save you from the heartbreak of losing your dream home due to financing issues. If you’re serious about your intentions, talk to us to see how we can assist you in this and get you a step closer to buying your next home.

Get Bespoke Mortgage Advice for Your Exact Needs

We’re experts at giving professional advice to help recommend the mortgage that fits your exact needs. We’ll take time to get to know your latest financial situation to help us to recommend the deals that could give you the solution you need – and we’ll be able to search from a wide range of deals that aren’t available on the high street. Your existing lender will be likely to contact you with offers but be sure to seek our professional advice before making any decisions.

Consider a Renovation Project

Buying a down-trodden property can represent a way to save money if you have the energy for a renovation project and are willing to put in some elbow grease to potentially save some serious money along the way. These homes often sell for less than move-in ready properties, but with some DIY skills and a bit of investment, you can transform a rundown property into your dream home while potentially increasing its value.

The Value of a Thorough Home Inspection

It’s easy to fall in love with a property you’ve found, but it pays to conduct some thorough surveys and inspections of the building before it’s too late. It may seem like an extra expense, but it can save you a lot of money in the long run. A good inspector will identify potential issues that could cost you thousands in repairs. Use this information to negotiate a lower price or ask the seller to fix problems before you close the deal.

Negotiate Everything

Effective negotiation may help you save money along the way – whether it’s the sale price of your dream property, the cost of services or materials to fund a renovation – never be afraid to ask for a deal, you might be surprised at the result!

Negotiation is an art itself, and it’s worth learning about some best practice tips and tricks you can start to use, both in daily life and in scenarios such as buying a home. 

Keep an Eye on Hidden Costs

Be mindful of other expenses like moving costs, new furniture, utility deposits, and homeowner association fees or estate fees for new-build homes, for example. Budget for these costs in advance so they don’t catch you off guard. Look for ways to save, such as renting a van instead of hiring a full-service removal firm or buying gently used furniture to cut costs on getting the final look you’re seeking.

Think Long-Term

While it’s essential to find a home that meets your current needs, consider how your needs might change in the future. Buying a home that you can grow into can save you the costs and hassle of moving again in a few years. Additionally, investing in energy-efficient appliances and systems can save you money on utility bills over time.

Final Thoughts

Buying a home doesn’t have to break the bank. With careful planning, savvy shopping, and a bit of negotiation, you can find a home you love without overspending. Remember, the goal is not just to buy a house, but to do so in a way that keeps your financial health intact. Happy house hunting!

Secure Your Home for a Stress-Free Summer Holiday

Recent times have seen a dramatic rise in interest rates, and we’ve all seen the impact on monthly mortgage payments as a result, but what’s less publicised is how your savings could now be working harder for you. We take a look at some tips on how to make the most of higher interest rates.

A feature by MoneyHelper, a consumer-facing support service from the UK Government, highlights some key points that we can take some inspiration from.

Switching Accounts

With interest rates having shot up over the past two years, top rates are now ten times higher than they were, however according to Moneyhelper1, you may need to move your savings around to access the highest rates.  

According to the Financial Conduct Authority, in December 2023 the average interest rate for instant access savings was 1.99%, and 3.52% for fixed rate accounts2. While this is higher than the same numbers earlier this year, there are quite a few accounts paying 5% or more in interest for both fixed and instant access accounts1.

Rising interest rates might mean that you’re spending more on your mortgage or other borrowing, but it can also earn you a bit extra on your savings. This is why it’s important to look around to ensure that your money is saved in the right places to benefit from increased interest rates.

Moneyhelper have put together some further tips on how to boost your interest rate:

  1. Check that you’re using the right type of account. If you’re eligible, some savers may be able to earn up to a 50% bonus with a Help to Save account or 25% with a Lifetime ISA
  2. Check what your savings currently pay. You can usually find the rate and if there are any restrictions or penalties for withdrawing cash:
    1. via online and mobile banking
    2. checking statements
  3. Compare against the top paying accounts – have a look around online for comparisons on financial services consumer websites, or speak to an independent financial adviser.
  4. Choose a new account to open. These days, most of the accounts paying competitive rates can all be opened online, and the process may only take a few hours to do. Moneyhelper have also put together some guidance – Get help before choosing an account
  5. Move your money. Use your new account details to transfer or pay in money. 

If you have a fixed-rate savings account or bond, you’ll usually have to wait until it matures (ends) before you can do this1. Other types of account should let you move money more freely, but always double check before starting.

Be prepared to move your money again

It’s a wise idea to check rates on a regular basis, as banks compete against one another to be the best, or have the most stand-out savings rates – be prepared that another bank may offer a more attractive rate in due course, and you may wish to move your funds accordingly.

Your bank might not increase your rate automatically 

Be prepared that even if your bank is offering a competitive rate to new customers, they may not offer the same to you automatically.

It’s worth keeping an eye on the market and if you see a better deal, query with your own bank as to how you can take advantage of what’s being offered.

Will you pay tax on savings interest? 

There’s a set amount that people can earn in savings interest each tax year (6 April to 5 April) without paying tax, based on your annual income.

Moneyhelper have put together a guide that covers how tax savings and investments can work – https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/savings/types-of-savings/tax-on-savings-and-investments

Types of savings account

When it comes to finding accounts with the higher savings rates, there are different types available, with their own pros and cons –

  • Instant and easy access accounts – these can be a good idea if you’re getting started with savings and might need to dip into them.
  • Easy-access cash ISA – all interest is tax-free, you can save up to £20,000 before 6 April1.
  • Premium Bonds – no interest, instead you’re entered into a monthly prize draw1.

Work around restrictions to maximise the return

Moneyhelper have put together a range of useful links for different types of savings and how to maximise these across the different types of accounts available:

  • Lifetime ISA – offer a 25% bonus on savings used for retirement or buying a first home, you need to be aged 18 to 39 to open one.
  • Help to Save – if you claim certain benefits you can save up to £50 a month for four years and earn a 50% government bonus. 
  • Regular savings – let you save a set monthly amount in return for a higher interest rate, but you might not be able to withdraw money.  
  • Fixed rate savings bonds – guarantee an interest rate for a set period between six months and seven years, but you can’t withdraw your money until the end.
  • Fixed rate cash ISA – a guaranteed interest rate between one and five years, interest is tax-free and you can usually withdraw for a fee
  • Notice accounts – to take out money you’ll usually need to give between 30 and 120 days’ notice.

In summary, this period of increased interest rates offers an opportunity for those with savings to consider how they may get more from their investments. The tips and methods shared here are all from the UK Government Moneyhelper website, which is packed full of advice and suggestions on how to keep safe financially.

We hope that this is a useful feature and would always encourage you to seek professional advice from an Independent Financial Adviser before making any changes to your finances.

Sources

  1. Moneyhelper (2024) Are you getting the best rate for your savings?. Available at: https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/blog/savings/how-to-find-the-top-savings-accounts [Accessed 26 Feb 2024]
  2. Financial Conduct Authority (2024). FCA update on cash savings – December. Available at: https://www.fca.org.uk/data/fca-update-cash-savings-december-2023 [Accessed 26 Feb 2024]

If you have a trip booked this summer, the last thing you want is to worry about your home security while you’re away. You’ve worked hard all year and deserve a well-earned break. Holidays are important, and it’s likely you have something planned that you’re looking forward to. The last thing you want is a phone call saying your home has been burgled while you’re enjoying your holiday.

If you often worry about home security, we can help put your mind at ease with our top tips to ensure your property is well-protected. This way, you can relax and enjoy your holiday with greater peace of mind.

1. Tilt Your Blinds

The debate on whether to leave your blinds open or closed when away from home is ongoing. Some suggest keeping them closed to prevent potential burglars from peering inside, but this can also signal that no one is home.

The ideal outcome may be to have trusted neighbours, friends or relatives to visit your property occasionally during your holiday to move blinds or curtains to show signs of occupation, however one alternative is simply to obscure the view of any valuable items that may be seen from outside – don’t let your home become a ‘shop window’ for burglars.

Alternatively, if you’re willing to invest, there are moveable blinds available that can be operated electronically – whether on timers or remote control and linked to smart phone apps.

2. Control Lighting

Making your home appear occupied is crucial when you’re away. Light timers are an effective tool for this. Set them to turn lights on and off at times you would normally do so, creating the illusion of activity.

For added security, consider smart light switches that can be controlled via an app on your smartphone. This allows you to turn lights on and off sporadically, mimicking human activity and making it harder for thieves to determine if you’re home.

3. Good Neighbours

Are you on good terms with your neighbours? This can really help at times when you’re going away, having extra pairs of eyes and ears on your property whilst you’re out of the area. They can help by keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity or noise, through to parking their car in your driveway or even helping with activities such as moving unattended bins after collection, to give the appearance that you’re still there. By offering your services to them first, you may find you can build up a good rapport and hopefully they may do this for you!

4. Avoid Publicly Posting on Social Media

While it’s tempting to share your holiday excitement on social media, it can alert potential burglars that your home is empty. If you have a public account, be cautious about tagging locations or checking in. Instead, adjust your privacy settings and only share your plans with close friends and family. Wait until you’re back home to post holiday photos.

5. Complete a General Security Check Before You Leave

Before heading out, double-check that all windows and doors are securely locked. Ensure sheds, garages, and outbuildings are also locked. Items like ladders and tools can assist burglars in gaining access to your home.

Additionally, unplug any electrical appliances to reduce fire risks and save energy.

6. Invest in Home Security

Effective home security provides peace of mind, whether you’re on holiday, walking the dog, or sleeping at night. A visible alarm bell box can deter burglars by emitting a loud siren and alerting neighbours if a break-in occurs.

CCTV cameras are also powerful deterrents. The mere presence of an outdoor camera can discourage most criminals. Modern alarm systems often allow remote activation and deactivation via a smartphone app, so you can secure your home even if you forget before leaving.

There’s also a whole range of video doorbells available that can provide an extra layer of security, letting you view your street, from the comfort of your sun lounger and record footage of any unwanted activity on your property.

Depending on your home and the level of protection desired, it is possible for a third-party security company to connect your property to their remote monitoring system where it can be watched over 24/7, with alerts to yourself and authorities if needed.

By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of burglary while you’re away, allowing you to focus on relaxing and enjoying your holiday.

How Do You Know if Your Savings are Safe?

What happens if the institution that looks after your savings goes bust? While memories of the 2008 banking crisis are receding with each passing year, there will always be a concern that money placed with any bank or other institution could be at risk.

So, is your nest egg really at risk in 2024? After the 2008 banking crisis, the Government stepped in to minimise the risk to your savings when and if banks go bust.

Furthermore, from 2019, it became UK Law that to separate core retail banking services (including current accounts, mortgages and savings) from their investment and international banking activities – known as ring-fencing. This means that savers’ money deposited with banks cannot be used to fund other parts of their operation that might be involved with their more speculative activities.1

Many people have a rough idea that they will be compensated if the institution which holds their money goes bust, but it is not an all-encompassing ‘get out of jail free’ card. There are conditions for compensation that govern what kind of investment, where it is deposited and how much is covered.

The body which acts for those of us whose bank or institution has gone bust is the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). Set up in 2001, it ensures that in the event of a catastrophic event, depositors can get their money back.2

If you hold money with a UK authorised bank, building society or credit union that fails, the FCFS will automatically compensate you:

  • up to £85,000 per eligible person, per bank, building society or credit union.
  • up to £170,000 for joint accounts.

To discover whether your investment is eligible for compensation if the worst happens, you can visit https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/

The FSCS does not cover other investments such as stocks and shares, so be careful when you are investing to check that not only the institution you are using is a member of the FSCS but the investment is of the right type.

Sources

  1. Bank of England (2024) Ring-fencing. Available at: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/prudential-regulation/key-initiatives/ring-fencing [Accessed 21 May 2024]
  2. Financial Services Compensation Scheme (2024). What we cover. Available at: https://www.fscs.org.uk/what-we-cover/ [Accessed 21 May 2024]

All the information in this article is correct as of the publish date 30th May 2024. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. The information provided in this article, including text, graphics and images does not, and is not intended to, substitute advice; instead, all information, content and materials available in this article are for general informational purposes only. Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.

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