Home conversions and extensions: what can they do for you?

Over the years, house prices have fluctuated around the UK, so it is important to consider how you can add value to your home and understand the true potential of your property. If you are considering adding extra space to your home, extending and converting parts of your home could help to add value if you decide to sell your property in the future. You cannot put an exact figure on how much value an extension can add, due to the location and type of extension you do, however with the right spends and right improvements, you could boost your homes’ value. For example, a recent Nationwide study found that a loft conversion which added an extra bedroom and en-suite bathroom would add an average of 21 per cent to the value of a property.

Loft conversion

With so many properties on the market, buyers are going to be looking for something unique in a potential home, and a loft conversion offers just that. There are various types of loft conversions including:

  • • Roof light conversions which utilises the original shape of the loft.
  • • Dormer conversions which adds extra headroom, natural light and floor space.

Loft conversions can help successfully enhance the space you already have, rather than adding on and has massive scope for room opportunities, such as adding an extra bedroom or bathroom.

However, to begin this process, you need to make sure your loft is suitable for conversion. You will need to take into consideration the height of the loft, condition of the roof and flooring. We recommend consulting a builder or architect to assess the suitability of a loft conversion in your property. Advice on loft conversations can be found on the Which? website here.

Conservatory extension

If you are looking for something to add light, room and somewhere to enjoy your garden without having to be out in the unpredictable British weather, a conservatory could be a perfect option. There are a variety of conservatories you can invest in, such as:

  • • Gable: Have a different roof to a typical conservatory, as it doesn’t slope back to the centre, but rather stays upright for the illusion of height to give a contemporary feel.
  • • Victorian: A conservatory style with a bayfront, pitched roof and ornate roof ridge.
  • • T-Shape: Great for detached homes with large gardens, as this style often extends across the width of your property.

As far as extensions go, conservatory installations can start from £5,000 upwards. It is important that your conservatory extension comes under permitted planning rights and if not, you will need planning permission as long as you meet the eligibility criteria. You can find out more from your local property planning department here. Overall, they can be beneficial by adding 5-7% to your property value.

Garage conversion

The majority of single garages nowadays cannot fit a modern car, so they tend to become a dumping grounds for things you don’t tend to use or need anymore. To benefit this space, you could convert it into an additional bedroom if the garage is integrated to the property (i.e. connected through an interior door). If you were able to do this and add an en-suite bathroom, it could add as much as 20% to the value of your home. If a bedroom isn’t what you need, converting it into a playroom/study could increase the value approximately by 10%.

Single/double-storey extension

Adding a single or double-storey extension can be one of the most complex forms of renovation as you will need to obtain the correct planning permission (Please consult the GOV.UK guidelines here) and additional costs of an architect to draw up plans. However, they can be a worthwhile investment to create additional living spaces and can be useful for families who are looking to add more space to a property. If you choose to opt for a double story extension, it could add as much as 11% to the value of your home.

Basement/cellar conversions

It is not common in new build and modern homes to have basements or cellar space and can usually be found in 18th and early 19th century terraced town houses due to the area below homes used as storage for coal or rooms for servants. If you are lucky enough to have one in an older property, you can create a more leisurely addition to your home by converting the space into a games room, gym, or a cinema room. With this amount of scope for both general living space and relaxing space, the basement could be a great place for you to start improving your home and could also benefit you up to 30% additional value on your property, so long as the build cost per square foot is less than the price per square foot of the area.

Overall, it is important to make sure that any conversions or extensions you are looking to do on your home are approved for planning permission with your local planning authority. You can check to see what extension types are eligible for planning permission here. It is also especially important that all work carried out on your property is done by trusted contractors, architects and suppliers.

5 money efficient ways to deck the halls this Christmas

 Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale gives his advice for budgeting Christmas decorations.

Christmas is filled with lots of food, spending time with loved ones and decorating your home for the festive seasons but for many first-time buyers moving in just before Christmas, it can be hard to make your brand-new home feel festive. Having décor around your house can make it feel more welcoming and friendly for your guests, however, if you have a tight budget or limited resources, how can you decorate your home economically? We share our top 5 ways to decorate homes that are friendly on the purse strings.

Light up the room with… food tins?

Image credit: Polly Eltes

Candles are a comfort during winter, but they can also be pricey. To dodge spending a lot without losing out on the quality of the candles, you can make your own with old food tins. Simply take off their wrappers, give them a clean and with a pair of scissors or another household tool you can pierce the tin and create your own patterns, such as a star or a snowflake. Drop in a tea light and add a handle using aluminum wire and you have your very own Christmas candle.

2 for 1- wreath and card holder

Gluing pegs or clips to a wreath wireframe means you can display cards into a thoughtful decoration. As seen in the image, it works as a great decoration and also allows you to easily display the cards you receive.

Make it fruity… with dried fruit décor

Warm and crisp scents remind everyone of Christmas. Adding dried fruit can add a subtle festive aroma to the home. To work as tree decoration, you could tie string on dried oranges and hang them from the tree or you could place a variety of dried fruit in a bowl on a coffee table for a chic effect.

Festive cushions made easy

Christmas duvets, cushions and blankets can help add a cosy ambience to any home. If you don’t have the budget to splash out, you can customise plain cushions or blankets by sewing felt stencils of snowflakes or festive shapes. This helps to then make your festive decorations unique to you, instead of having something from a store that anyone else has bought too. If you are settling into a new home, having things that are personal to you help to make your home reflect you.

Cards carved by you

Christmas cards can be pricey, particularly if you have a lot of people to shop for. With a variety of materials such as glitter, stencils, pompoms and much more will allow you to create your very own cards. A benefit of this also, is that as fun as they are to make, they are just as enjoyable to receive. Having something made by you and gifted to someone who would appreciate it makes it worthier than a bulk buy of cards at your local supermarket.

 

How to save energy (and money) at home

We all know that saving energy and making better choices is imperative to the earth’s well being at this point, and as homeowners and landlords this can also have a knock on effect on our monthly spending and budgets. We’ve rounded up some simple and effective ways for you to save energy and money in your own homes.

Be a bright spark

One of the key ways we can save energy at home is to focus on electricity usage. Whilst electricity isn’t necessarily cheaper than gas, it is more efficient and more readily utilised across a wide range of places in the home. Electricity usage can easily sneak up the scale of expensive household bills, so how do we go about saving electricity?

  • Turn off household appliances when not in use, even if they’re left in standby mode appliances will still consume a surprising amount of energy.
  • Purchase energy efficient appliances, A rated, and upwards, appliances are better for your wallet and better for the planet.
  • Utilise energy-saving light bulbs, such as LED, energy savers or halogen lights for outside, also consider placing security lights on timers or sensors so they are only in use when they’re needed. Install dimmer switches on internal lights which will reduce energy consumption and set the mood in the evening.
  • Wash clothes at a lower temperature, 30 degrees of less. “washing clothes at 30 degrees uses around 40% less electricity over the course of a year compared to higher temperatures
  • Air-dry your laundry rather than tumble-drying it, but if you do use a tumble dryer take your clothes out of the dryer before they’re completely dry – they’ll iron much easily, and you’ll use less energy on your drier. Double the savings!

 

Take your foot off the gas

Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will not only benefit your budget bottom line but will also reduce the size of the carbon footprint you produce. There are a few ways you can go about this:

  • Install a smart thermostat, meaning you can easily track your consumption and control the whole homes heating.
  • turn down your thermostat, “turning your room thermostat down by just one degree will save around £80 on your energy bill
  • Install a new energy efficient and up to date boiler. No boiler is ever 100% efficient sadly but the newer A rated ones are 90% efficient, which is a vast improvement on older products (G Rated boilers are only 65% efficient for example)
  • If you have a home with a water cylinder, consider placing insulation around this tank to reduce the amount of gas (or electricity) you use to heat the water inside.

Be smart about water

The average UK household uses 330 litres of water every day, between dripping taps, large cistern sizes,

  • Try not to needlessly waste water by leaving taps or showers running when you’re not using them, take shorter showers and shallower baths.
  • Kettles use a lot of energy to boil water, however if you only boil as much water as you need, you can reduce the energy consumption drastically over time.
  • Use less water when you wash by fitting aerator tap and shower head fittings.
  • If you are lucky enough to own a swimming pool or hot tub, keep them covered when not in use and the trapped heat will mean less energy used to warm them up when you do decide to opt for a dip.

 

Make your building energy efficient

A great way to improve the value of your home long term and save money on utilities right away is to invest in upgrading your homes energy efficiency. You can do this in several ways:

  • Invest in double glazing, or secondary glazing to reduce the amount of heat lost through drafty, single glazed or wood framed windows. If you live in a period property you can usually apply to fit secondary glazing internally to help if you are unable to replace your windows with UPVC units.
  • Insulate the loft, walls and water pipes, this is self-explanatory and should be done in all homes to some degree. But taking the time to cover pipes with lagging, rolling out insulation in your loft and boarding it, and getting you walls cavity insulated will all make a drastic difference to the warmth of your home.
  • Apply for an energy saving grant, there are many ways you might be able to save or recoup some money towards making your home more efficient or towards your utility bills.
  • Draft proofing windows and doors with tape and excluders will help stop a chill whistle through your home on a windy evening. Meaning you can also close off rooms you don’t wish you use and heat.

The advantages of using a Lettings Management Agent – and the struggles you face if you don’t.

Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale offers his advice on the advantages of outsourcing landlord services/lettings management for your rental property

Latest statistics released by Foundation Home Loans in August 2018, show that despite a climate of uncertainty, as many as 1 in 5 landlords have no intention of selling up. Even with factors such as a mass departure of emigrants or regulatory and tax fluctuations, 19% of Landlords owning at least 4 properties said they would remain within their field. This was the same intention for 18% of Landlords with less properties.

Our guide lists key advantages for outsourcing your rental property management and what you should look out for in choosing the right letting agent.

  • Experience is on their side:

When considering using a letting management agent, the first thing to know is how much experience the agent has that you don’t – and it might be more than you think. They can help you find a suitable tenant for your property using an extensive screening and referencing process to help you find the right person for your property. Along with this, they can help you negotiate a fair rental price. This is based on their local knowledge of the rental marketplace (including location) as well as how they market the property and who they market it to. With these factors in mind, you are able to secure the best amount of rent from your tenants in line with industry standards.

  • Preparation and Maintenance of property is under control:

Before a tenant moves in, an outsourced lettings management agent will be able to give you important pointers and top tips for improving your property, along with checking that  relevant property regulations are in place. While the tenant is living in your property, the letting agent conducts regular property checks and can fix property issues quickly to save you from having to do the job yourself. This can include annual gas safety checks, electrical safety and fire safety compliance.

  • Legal resources that keep you in the know:

Finding legal resources independently is a struggle, but is something lettings management agents excel in. They can supply you with information on the current legislation affecting landlords, along with advice on landlord insurance and tax advisory services. They also deal with secure deposit protection scheme administration, to ensure all of your tenant deposits are kept in a safe and legal TDS scheme.

  • Time management and general work load:

A huge benefit of working with outsourcing your rental property is the overall amount of time and general work load they save you from doing. They handle all of the paperwork, moving in dates, along with collecting rent (or chasing it up if need be).  They also know the correct legal process for evicting a tenant, further saving you time, effort and stress.

  • Main point of contact – always:

Most importantly, letting management is a point of contact for you all of the time. If you are having problems communicating with your tenant, they can help resolve that. If there is a problem within the home, such as a leakage or broken machine, a lettings management agent has access to 24/7 service providers to resolve any issues quickly, rather than you getting a call in the middle of the night because your tenants washing machine has flooded!

Overall, a letting management agent will have detailed knowledge and industry experience to share with you, to help make renting your property easier. They help you save time, trouble and stress. Without them, you may face struggles such as maintaining rent, choosing the best tenant for your property or keeping up to date with landlord legislation requirements. Why not contact Limestone today, and find out if we are the right letting management for you by calling us on 01908 234 111 or email us at info@limestonemk.co.uk

 

How to dress your home ready for sales photos

Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale shares his photography tips for selling your property.

So, you have made the decision to sell your property and now face the task of achieving the best possible price. A lot of factors will determine the valuation and final sum you can realistically expect to achieve, but one thing entirely in your hands is the effort you put into presenting your home. Wowing would-be buyers as they tour your home is one thing, but first you will need to convince someone to come and see it!

From the moment you list your property as for sale you are in competition with other sellers, and the first thing anyone is going to do is see how your home stacks up in comparison to others in the local area. The best way to make it onto someone’s shortlist in this scenario is through top quality photography. They say a picture says a thousand words, but you only need yours to say two, BUY ME!

Working with an established agency will mean you gain access to sales representatives who are experienced in taking optimum house selling photography. They will show your home in its best light and showcase its appeal, but so will many of your competitors. So, what can you do to help your agent ensure somebody puts your home on the must-see list, and avoid the dreaded maybe pile?

Firstly, time when your photos are taken well.  Choose the time of day when the front of the house is shown in a good natural light, as this will likely be the first image most will see and if it is not looking bright and attractive you risk losing interest before anyone sees the inside. Move any cars, bins or other clutter from outside the front of property, cut the grass and clean all the windows.

Once that is done, it is time to set the scene inside. Open all curtains and blinds before photography commences indoors and replace any light bulbs that may have gone out. Moving furniture around may help to make a room look more spacious but keep in mind the overall aesthetics. A common mistake is to give your imagery a show-home feel. Whilst this approach is understandable, you do not want to make the property seem cold or business like. The idea is to create a mental picture for potential buyers where they can imagine enjoying living in your home themselves, so the careful balance to be achieved is a mixture of lived in, but clean, tidy and welcoming.

Ideally, remove rugs and throws from sofas, arrange cushions neatly, set dining room tables and put away any toys, magazines or DVDs on show in living areas. Moving upstairs, ensure all beds are made and that any visible drawers and wardrobe doors are fully closed. Kitchen and bathrooms are naturally associated with hygiene, so it is imperative that these areas are spotless.

Keep toilet lids down and ensure any towels on display are neatly folded and compliment the décor. Clear all kitchen work tops and make sure there are no chopping boards on show. It is best to move bins out sight and keep all cupboards closed with appliances inside of them – dirty dishes in the sink are an absolute no-no!

For a final touch, maybe consider adding flowers around the home or a full fruit bowl in kitchen shots, it seems a moot point, but the connotations of fresh and vibrant colours could sway someone towards your property and make all the difference!

For more tips like these and to get the best price for your property, contact the team on 01908 234 111 or email us at info@limestonemk.co.uk

A Beginner’s Guide to Mortgages

Applying for a mortgage is one of the most expensive (and daunting) commitments a person can make in their lifetime. For aspiring first-time buyers, it can be difficult to navigate which mortgage is right for you or how to get a better deal when considering a remortgage or selling your property. Our guide covers the most frequently asked mortgage questions:

1. What types of mortgages are available in the UK?

When you considering mortgage products from various banks and building societies, the two main mortgage products are:

Repayment Mortgages

A Repayment Mortgage means you pay a monthly sum to your mortgage lender that pays off part of the capital you owe for your property (actual price of the mortgage sum) and the interest accrued. For example, if you set your mortgage term for a set-time of 25 years, you will gradually reduce the debt you owe and the amount of interest paid will decrease. If you keep up with your payments for the entire mortgage term, you will have no outstanding mortgage debt to pay and you will own your property outright. If you choose to re-mortgage, you should have a lower loan to value ratio (LTV) and therefore could have less to pay in mortgage costs per month.

Interest-only mortgages

An Interest-only mortgage means you only pay off the interest accrued on your mortgage each month and not the capital. Your monthly payments will only cover the costs of borrowing the money from your mortgage lender and does not go towards paying off the property. At the end of the mortgage term, you will have to pay off the capital money you owe on the property in one lump sum.

2. What is a mortgage rate and how does this affect what mortgage product I choose?

A mortgage rate is the interest rate charged when you take out a mortgage. When choosing a mortgage product, you will often find that you can get fixed rate mortgages which offer a set interest rate for a length of time (i.e. 2 years, 5 years) or a variable interest rate which can go up and down dependent on benchmark interest rate (determined by the Bank of England Base Rate or the lender). A fixed rate mortgage offers certainty to mortgage payers that their monthly interest payments will stay the same even if the benchmark interest rate rises or falls.  A variable interest mortgage will follow the standard variable rate of the bank which has made the loan which can fluctuate, meaning your monthly payments can change dependent on if the interest rate rises or lowers. Tracker mortgages also work in a similar fashion but the interest rate is determined by the Bank of England Base Rate.

3. How much will my mortgage payments be?

Monthly mortgage payments are calculated by the amount you wish to borrow, the term over which you intend to pay it off and the interest rate on your mortgage product. When looking around for mortgage deals, there are free mortgage calculators online which can work out how much you are likely to pay per month (including any mortgage fees).

4. What is an LTV ratio?

The ‘Loan to Value’ ratio is a percentage which is calculated by amount you need to borrow, divided by the value of the property and then multiply the result by 100 in order to get its percentage value. The amount of money that you put down on a property as a deposit will help to lower your loan to value ratio.

5. How much deposit do I need to secure a first-time mortgage?

There is no set rule on how much deposit is needed to secure a first-time mortgage. The more you can set aside for a deposit in savings will put your mortgage application in good standing for the best interest rate deals. Deposits in excess of 25% of the property value will generally allow for better mortgage interest rate deals, so if you have a property valued at £200,000 a 25% deposit would be £50,000. If you have a low deposit, there are ways to help you secure a mortgage including special family mortgages whereby you put in a smaller deposit amount (i.e. 10%) and a family member/guarantor adds in savings to make up the rest of the deposit. There are 95% mortgages deals which only need a 5% deposit, however, be prepared to pay a higher interest rate.

6. Family members are helping me contribute to a property deposit – does this mean I will be automatically approved for a mortgage?

A gifted deposit does not automatically entitle applicants to a mortgage agreement. Banks and building societies take many factors into account when processing a mortgage application including age, employment status, affordability tests, consideration of any existing debt (including credit cards), monetary commitments (including any children/dependents within a household) and credit scores.

7. How does my credit score affect mortgage eligibility?

A credit score is an indication to lenders as to whether you are likely to pay credit back and whether there are any risk implications in lending money to you. If you have a good credit score, you are more likely to have access to better mortgage rate deals. If you have a poor credit history (i.e. any missed credit card payments, late bill payments etc.) this could lead to some lenders refusing you credit. There are free services online including Experian and Noddle where you can check your credit score online and check your credit history to make sure there are no mistakes on your file.

8. What should I do to make sure my mortgage/remortgage application is successful?

Pay your bills on time – if you miss a payment this will be recorded as a negative on your credit file and can stay there for up to 6 years.

Keep your accounts in good standing – make sure you close any unnecessary bank or credit card accounts that are not in use.

Add your rent history to your credit file – if you are renting and always make sure you pay your rent on time, you can request that your rent payments are counted towards your credit report, meaning you could potentially improve your credit score by showing you are a good tenant.

Don’t splash out on unnecessary purchases – mortgage lenders will examine your bank statement history and will question any purchases that are deemed excessive or wasteful. Try to keep to within your living means for at least 3 months before you apply for a mortgage.

9. I already have a mortgage on a property, but would like to sell my current property to buy a bigger/smaller property – what will happen to my current mortgage and how do I secure a new one?

If you plan to sell your property, you can either adjust your current mortgage to the property which you plan to move to or you can remortgage with a new lender, which may offer you a better deal. It is worth speaking with a qualified mortgage broker or directly to your lender to see how moving will affect your mortgage. It is worth noting if there are any exit fees associated with leaving your current lender as you may be penalised for moving to a new lender.

10. Can I ‘overpay’ my mortgage?

Overpayments can be extremely beneficial in reducing the amount you owe on a mortgage. Some mortgages allow for overpayments if you have some extra money that you wish to put towards your mortgage. This can either be in the form of a lump sum or raising the amount you pay monthly. There may be penalties or payment limits which you will need to take into consideration before making any overpayments to your account.

11. Where should I go for mortgage advice?

At Limestone, we have an exclusive relationship with Lewis Christopher Ltd who are able to access 1000’s of mortgage products. Their experience and knowledge of the market is second to none and you can be assured of impartial, whole of market advice. To book a Personal Mortgage Review or find out more information, please visit our Services page.

12. What happens if I do not keep up with my mortgage payments?

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and cannot keep up with your mortgage payments, you need to get in touch with your mortgage lender as soon as possible to discuss your options. Failure to do so could lead to your home being repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage.

Time to downsize? A buyers guide to understanding the benefits of living in a smaller property

A big home may still be a dream for some, but a smaller home may be a smarter and more flexible choice for those looking to save money and time. Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale shares his insight into how living in a smaller property could benefit you.

Lower Mortgage Payments
One of the most obvious and biggest selling points of downsizing is that less square footage = lower mortgage payments. If saving money has become important to you, downsizing can be a great way as you may also be able to pay your mortgage off quicker than if you purchased a larger space.

Treat Yourself Or Loved Ones

Downsizing from your current larger property may see you end up with a significant lump sum –  all yours to spend on whatever you like. A nice new car, an exotic holiday or a gift for loved ones could all soon be within reach with appropriate downsizing.

Lower Maintenance Costs
Big beautiful homes take a lot of looking after, whereas with a smaller space you can do most of the maintenance work yourself and in a far reduced amount of time. If you currently pay others to keep your property looking spick-and-span, downsizing is an immediate way to save on the cost of labour.

Less Clutter
Owning a smaller property can often result in keeping a neater home. With less space, you’re less likely to become (or remain) a hoarder! Having little extra space at your disposal will require you to ruthlessly edit your possessions. You are forced to rethink buying habits and make decisions about what you need versus what you hold on to.

Be Greener
With smaller homes you are almost guaranteed to use less natural resources. Your gas and electricity bills will go down as your space won’t require as much energy, meaning you can be safe in the knowledge you are saving both money and the environment.

More Manageable Renovations
By virtue of having a small house, any refurbishments can be done easier and in much less time than the full-scale renovation of a larger home. Less space means less materials which also means the costs of renovating can be significantly cheaper from your old property to your next.

Smarter Spaces
In a smaller home, you can be more creative in maximizing the square footage. Walls and ceilings can be fully utilized with open shelves and organizers and it pays to be clever with more built-ins and storage solutions. Smaller homes often turn out to be some of the most resourceful.

Think downsizing could be for you? Give us a call on 01908 234 111 or drop us an email at sales@limestonemk.co.uk and a member of our friendly team will be happy to explore your options with you.

To see the latest properties we have available please click here

Our No Landlord Admin Fees offer is back!

Back by popular demand, we are pleased to announce that our ‘No Landlord Admin Fees’ has returned and is available to all new landlords who set up a fully managed tenancy with us!

Our Fully Managed Tenancy service includes:

1. Expert appraisal of your property
2. Internet and Print Advertising
3. Accompanied viewings
4. Preparation of the tenancy
5. Comprehensive referencing

Our ‘No Landlord Admin Fees’ offer is applicable to new landlords only with any new fully managed tenancies set up in June, July and August 2018.

To take advantage of this fantastic opportunity, or to set up a free valuation, contact the team on 01908 234 111 or email us at info@limestonemk.co.uk

The benefits of living in Milton Keynes – why people love MK and what attracts people to move to the area

On average, 13 people move to Milton Keynes every day, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. We have all heard the negative stories about too many roundabouts and a lack of identity, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. To help you get to know more about the real Milton Keynes, we have rounded up a top ten list of the benefits of living in MK and why there is more than meets the eye beneath the grid system.

1. It is great for getting around

Due to its geographical location within the UK, the transport links within Milton Keynes make it a commuter haven. Whether you are looking for a city with good links to London or Birmingham, Milton Keynes offers fast train services so that you can be in either city in less than 45 minutes. With good road links and proximity to the M1, it also offers easy reach to Bedford, Luton, Northampton and Cambridge.  On top of this, there are five international airports within 90 minutes’ drive meaning you are never too far away to escape to a sunny destination abroad.

2. Two-fifths of Milton Keynes is glorious, green open space

Whilst there may be over 130 roundabouts and an infamous American grid system, Milton Keynes surprisingly offers residents a lot of green space in the form of beautiful parks. There are over 200 parks in Milton Keynes including Willen Lake South Park where you can tackle a high rope adventure or splash about in the outdoor water park, Campbell Park where you can admire the sculptures and catch a game of local cricket or Linford Lakes Nature Reserve where you can spot herons, otters, owls or deer in their natural habitats. This also provides plenty of opportunities to go for leisurely strolls or bike rides at the weekend.

3. It is a good place to find work and purchase a property

Statistics within the last three years show that there are 67.7 start-up businesses per 10,000 people in Milton Keynes, second only to the capital. It is home to many businesses such as Mercedes-Benz, BP, Dominoes, Red Bull Racing and Argos providing plenty of career opportunities within the area, so it is no surprise that it is also an affordable place to get on the property ladder. Property prices also provide an attraction to those looking for a new base outside of London. According to latest valuation figures, the average property price is £305,271 in Milton Keynes, which is less than half the price of living within the capital, where the average property price is £636,363 in London.

4. The city is host to surprising tech innovation and testing

Forget Silicon Valley – Milton Keynes is the new home to unique technology trials. If you happen to order a takeaway, don’t be surprised if you encounter a little white robot greeting you at your door with your margarita pizza. Starship Technologies have deployed these robots which features sensors for detecting obstacles, nine cameras and GPS technology to help them navigate their way along the grid system. Milton Keynes is also trialling Aurrigo self-driving pods within the city centre that can travel up to 15 miles per hour and last up to one hour off a single charge for members of the public to utilise as a new mode of transport.

5. You are never too far away from water

At face value, Milton Keynes couldn’t be further from the sea, yet the city is home to 15 beautiful lakes and 11 miles of canals. You can take a leisurely boat ride down the Grand Union Canal and visit the country’s smallest canal lock at Fenny Stratford or have a picnic by the windmill at Caldecotte Lake.

6. For a new town, MK boasts a lot of history

Even though Milton Keynes was elected as a new town on 23 January 1967, it is steeped in history. Bletchley Park was vital to winning World War II where 10,000 citizens from all walks of life helped to crack enemy codes and communication in secret. Bradwell Priory was founded in 1154 by Benedictine Monks and is listed as a nationally important scheduled monument. For car (and James Bond) lovers, Newport Pagnell is the birthplace of Aston Martin. Stadium MK (the polarising home of MK Dons) hosted record amounts of visitors during the 2015 Rugby World Cup to watch international matches of France v Canada, Fiji v Uruguay and Samoa v Japan. And finally, Milton Keynes has shaped the UK in winning several Gold medals at the Olympic Games including Torvill and Dean (who practiced their Olympic-winning ‘Bolero’ routine at Planet Ice) and Greg Rutherford (who won Gold at the 2012 London Olympics for Long Jump). The ‘Leaping Man’ statue and two gold postboxes in Lloyds Court are a long-standing tribute to Greg’s achievement.

7. MK has plenty of arts and culture (not just animal statues)

Aside from the infamous ‘Concrete Cows’ installation by Canadian artist Liz Leigh, the city provides a thriving hub for art, theatre and music. Milton Keynes Theatre is reported to be one of the UK’s busiest theatre districts outside of London’s West End with regular shows such as RSC productions, the English National Ballet and musicals such as Matilda, Jersey Boys and Legally Blonde. With over 200 public art installations in the area, there is also a major refurbishment of MK Gallery due to open in 2019 offering a new home for contemporary art, live performances and film showings. For gigs and live music, check out The Stables where you can see the likes of Newton Faulkner, Northern Soul and Joan Armatrading perform. Let’s not forget The Bowl where icons such as Take That, Linkin Park, Bon Jovi, Oasis, Guns and Roses and Eminem have performed.

8. The local schools and colleges have strong education ratings and rankings

For parents with children, there are a high proportion of schools and colleges within the Milton Keynes area which have achieved respectable inspection ratings. To date, there are 30 schools and colleges in MK which have been rated ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED and 66 schools and colleges which have been rated ‘Good’. There are also a number of good independent schools within Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire to choose from.

9. New adventures are just around the corner

You don’t have to travel far to experience thrill sports. The Xscape in Milton Keynes offers the SnoZone where you can ski or snowboard to your heart’s content all-year-round and has taught over 2 million guests since its opening in 2000. To satisfy your inner Peter Pan, you can also learn to fly through a unique indoor sky-diving experience iFLY which allows people of all ages to soar through a 12 ft wind tunnel. On warmer days, you can sail, paddleboard or powerboat your way across Willen Lake.

10. The shopping centres attract over 27 million visitors each year

If you are looking for retail therapy, Milton Keynes offers an impressive shopping centre made up of two adjacent shopping areas, Intu Milton Keynes and thecentre:MK which offers 120,773m2 of high street and designer retailers and is ranked in the top 15 largest shopping centres in the UK (even featuring in the 1997 Guinness Book of World Records for the longest shopping mall in the world). MK shopping is only due to get bigger over the next 10 years as Intu Milton Keynes has been granted expansion plans to add 9,300m² of space to the centre, including a new food hall over two levels and a five-screen boutique cinema.

If you want to find your dream home in Milton Keynes, contact the Limestone team on 01908 234 111 or email us at info@limestonemk.co.uk

Mythbusting: 13 Facts About Selling Your Home

Limestone Sales and Lettings resident myth-buster (and Office Manager) Paul Neale, gives his take on some of the most widespread beliefs among house sellers.

1. Does the smell of coffee and/or freshly-baked bread really have a positive influence on would-be buyers?

It’s certainly true that a ‘homely’ aroma is endearing to would-be buyers, and the opposite is also true. Bad odours or suspicious smells are very off-putting. Interestingly, a recent study in Australia suggested that citrus is actually the winning formula for ‘smelling’ your home. How true this is, we really couldn’t say!

2. Is a tidy house better to show would-be buyers than a house which has a lived-in look?

Yes, it’s critical to present your property at its best. Your home doesn’t just need to be a showroom, but you should declutter as much as possible. It can be challenging work, but if you want to sell your home it’s worthwhile. This not only helps sell your property but can help you achieve a better price too.

3. Does superstition ever come into buying and selling? For example, does the number 13 ever put people off buying a house?

Not really. Many houses that are number 13 sell just as well as any other numbers, however I have also occasionally seen house numbers changed to 11a, rather than staying as number 13.

4. Do houses sell over the winter months, especially in the run-up to Christmas?

It is traditional that most people tend to put their property on the market between January and October, but should this deter you from going on the market in December? Absolutely not! There are many buyers out there all year round and having fewer properties to compete with is no bad thing. Also, if you haven’t sold by this point you have a head start on the many other sellers who come on board in the busy New Year period.

5. How often is the first offer the only offer? Should I hold out for my asking price?

It really depends on the ‘first offer’. You can usually tell if the buyer is testing the water and if they are a serious buyer they will nearly always improve on their opening offer. As a guide, our research shows that on average, buyers end up agreeing at around 97% of asking price.

6. Should sellers always go with the estate agent who suggests the highest selling price?

No, that’s not so true anymore. The internet allows sellers to have a pretty good idea of their property value and they can usually tell when an agent is way off the mark! Good agents won’t just suggest a figure, they will offer extensive comparable evidence to support their valuation.

7. Do would-be buyers often make their minds up within a few seconds of walking into a house?

Yes, yes and yes again!! The first minute or two are quite often all a buyer needs to know if this is the house for them.

8. Is it true how a house looks from the outside is as important than what’s on the inside?

First impressions are essential, and a well-maintained frontage and surrounding area is so important because this is where your prospective buyer is stood, looking, while they’re waiting for you to open the door. It helps reinforce that you take pride in your home, which gives them confidence.

9. Is South-facing more attractive to buyers than North-facing?

A Southerly facing rear garden is a must for many buyers and this is certainly something we highlight. The reason why certain buyers seek the Southerly aspect (the ultimate in my opinion being the South West facing garden) is because this ensures the sun is on the back of the house most of the day and into the evening.

10. Pricing – is a £249,999 listing actually more appealing to would-be buyers than a £250,000 one?

Yes and no! There is no doubt that psychological pricing works, however it is also important for an estate agent to consider the impact certain pricing can have on national portals such as Rightmove. In this instance, if you are searching online and your criteria is, say, £240,000 – £250,000, the property listed at £250,000 would be the first property a buyer would see when they search on Rightmove, not the £249,999 listing.

11. Will an expensive kitchen will sell your home?

Many people spend a small fortune on a high-end kitchen refit before putting their home on the market, but this can be both a waste of time and money. Potential buyers will often want to refit their own kitchen once they move in, so investing in a new kitchen is something you can forgo.

12. When you receive an offer, should you make the buyer wait?

When you receive an offer, you should reply straight away. When a buyer makes an offer, that buyer is ready to buy your home. Moods can change and you don’t want to lose the sale because you stalled in replying. Some people believe that waiting to reply puts you as the seller in a better negotiating position, but that just isn’t the case.

13. You can do it alone and don’t need an estate agent

Whilst estate agent fees may make your toes curl up, going solo is often more difficult. Selling your property is a lot more than creating a fancy looking advert – you also have to arrange viewings, market your home, establish relationships with potential buyers and filter the offers. Estate agents may get a bad reputation, but ultimately, they are pros at selling homes.

For more tips like these and to get the best price for your property, contact the team on 01908 234 111 or email us at info@limestonemk.co.uk