Trendy kitchens and bathrooms – What can they do for you?

The quality of a bathroom/kitchen can increase or decrease the value of a property so it’s essential to keep them up-to-date. They should be a space for relaxation and, for many, unwind after a long day. A potential buyer could easily be put off by a dated bathroom or kitchen as they may see this as an area where they would need to invest extra money in when purchasing a property.

Installing a new bathroom or kitchen is a big commitment. Any design choices will need to be lived with for several years, so it’s important not to be too easily influenced by current trends that can come and go (i.e. 1970s style avocado green bathroom suite). This month’s blog post covers our top tips on how you can improve kitchens and bathrooms with simple, cost-effective changes.

Let’s begin with kitchens…

A pop of colour

Adding a statement pop of colour to your kitchen can help modernise tired paintwork. This adds a sense of personality and character to your kitchen and reflects who you are within your home. Adding a fresh coat of paint to walls is a relatively inexpensive way to transform your kitchen. If you enjoy more intense colours, focus on painting one statement wall and keep the rest of the walls neutral so that the colour does not overpower the room.

Matte black appliances

No matter what colour your kitchen, matte black is a perfect contrast colour for your appliances –  including ovens, kettles, dishwashers and fridges. This helps to add a technological and futuristic feeling for your kitchen and can blend in with most interior design schemes.

Headless ventilation

Headless ventilation is something that many kitchen designers are now implementing into modern homes. It saves drawing unnecessary attention to less attractive features, such as your cooker hoods. It also means you have a much airier and open spaced kitchen.

Clutter-free surfaces

This idea of minimalism is huge in all areas of the house and there is no exception for the kitchen! Take a leaf out of famous tidier, Marie Kondo, who preaches about storage and keeping only what you need. If you have an excessive amount of tabletop appliances then narrow it down – if things such as electrical appliances are old and not working as well as they used to, get rid of them too.

Tons of texture

This is a simple yet highly effective way to keep your kitchen visually pleasing. Having a variety of textures works to add dimension to the room and can include wooden counters, glass splash backs and tile flooring. 

Open-plan living

If you are someone who has watched the show ‘World’s Most Extraordinary Homes’, many modern homes have open-plan kitchens combined with living rooms so that families can enjoy spending more time together in one space. ‘Broken-plan’ layouts are becoming increasingly popular – by adding bookcases, screens or half-walls creates distinct areas within a kitchen for eating/socialising.

Darker floors

Adding darker floor tiles or wooden flooring can create a sleeker and chicer kitchen. Having chestnut or ebony wood floors, or grey/black tiles is the way forward. Marble flooring can add make an impactful statement, however, if marble tiles are out of budget, why not take a look at marble- effect tiles?

 

Next up is bathrooms…

Don’t be tempted to buy a coloured bathroom suite!

Bold coloured bathroom suites might be making a comeback but white bathrooms are truly timeless. If you want to add colour to white bathrooms, they are easily accessorised with towels and blinds that can provide a funky accent colour or can be complimented with patterned tiles and flooring. In contrast to kitchens, choose more angular styled white suites to add a contemporary twist.

Make a big statement in a small space

Bathrooms are often the smallest rooms in a house but that doesn’t mean you can’t be adventurous in your design choices. Using large print wallpaper can create a vibrant wall or utilising a statement mirror can be both practical and add some drama to the space.

 

Go natural

Cold, stone textures and materials have been popular in bathrooms for quite some time but now wood is on its way in. Darker-stained, rustic timber can be used to add a warmer touch to often cold, clinical bathroom designs. There are even wood effect tiles on the market to add a more natural feel without compromising on functionality.

A metallic touch

Forget shiny chrome – think industrial copper or glamorous gold. You may not want to commit to changing your taps to these bold new metallic trends, but you can accessorise your bathroom with gold or copper accents by installing an on-trend light fitting with coordinating metallic framed mirror or shelving unit.

Wet rooms

If you’re planning a complete bathroom renovation, a wet room may be a great option. They are becoming increasingly popular as they offer an easy to maintain bathroom and are a practical alternative to a walk-in shower, offering greater accessibility.

Industrial chic

Industrial chic is an emerging trend. With a more masculine feel, the industrial look consists of bold, straight lines, exposed pipework and black, chunky fixtures and fittings. Simplicity is key with this design and larger, more stylised shower screens hint at influences from Japanese minimalism.

Space saving bathrooms – always on trend

If your bathroom is particularly tiny, there are lots of space saving options available from vanity units with built in storage to slim basins, compact WCs and even tapered bathtubs, perfect for awkward spaces. The use of mirrored tiles can make a small space feel bigger, as can lighter colour palettes and choosing bright lighting. Neutral tiles, around 30-60cm, are ideal for bijou bathrooms, smaller tiles can make a small room look too busy.

 

 

 

 

 

What is a catchment area and why should you consider yours when buying a property?

Relocating to a new town is a big decision, and there are a few factors that you should consider before moving. One of these factors is the school catchment area, especially if you have children or are thinking about having children in the future.

A catchment area can be defined as the geographical area served by a school and it is important to do your research into the schools in the area that you are looking to move to. Both primary and secondary schools should be able to provide information on where their catchment areas are, so you can find out if you’re close enough to be considered for a place.

Milton Keynes is fortunately packed with Infant, Primary, Secondary and Independent schools, meaning that when you are looking for an area to move to, you will probably have a choice of schools to send your child/ren to. In Milton Keynes, we are also very lucky in that we have a various Special Education schools for children with complex needs along with SEN provisions in place at all Primary and Secondary schools.

In light of this, one area within Milton Keynes that is worth mentioning is Bletchley, as it has a large amount of schools within its borders, including Lord Grey Academy, Abbey’s Primary School, Barleyhurst Park Primary School, Romans Field School, MK Prep School, Chestnuts Primary School, St Thomas Aquinas School, Newton Leyes Primary School and Sir Herbert Leon School. Average housing prices in Bletchley are £265,483, which is below the average of £313,587 for a house in Milton Keynes as a whole.

You should also take into consideration a schools Ofsted rating, especially if you would be looking to sell you home later down the line. According to Net House Prices, the average price of a house with an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted school in its catchment area is £331,605. That’s 13.2% higher than the cost of a home near a school with an Ofsted grade of ‘good’. The figures show the average house price increases by a whopping £96,363 if you want to live in an area with an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating compared to one with an Ofsted ‘inadequate.’

As well as considering catchment areas, it is important to consider when in the academic year that you are moving to a new area, most schools will need you to be living at your new address before you apply for your child to attend the school, and although it is possible for your child to move schools midterm, it is recommended that this happens in a half term or, even better, over the summer holidays.

If you are considering relocating to Milton Keynes, click here for more information

Smart investments to keep your home a safe one.

Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale gives his top tips for looking after your home and keeping it safe.

Owning a house and making it a home is one of the greatest achievements in life. It is important that you know how to keep your home safe and there are smart investments you can make to help achieve this. Some of these investments may also make your home more appealing to potential buyers in the future.

Digital home monitoring

A remote home monitoring system is usually controlled by an app, in which you can place small cameras around your home to view both the inside and outside of your property via your phone and can be used for everyday use, such as watching your pets or checking the kids while you’re out. If motion is detected whilst you are away from home, you’ll be sent a notification to your phone so you can watch the activity in your home, sound an alarm or call the police. You can also place detectors on doors and windows which can detect when they are being broken into.

Smart doorbells

Smart doorbells help you to see who is at your front door before allowing visitors access to you home. These doorbells are particularly useful for pre-screening unwanted cold-callers or monitoring the whereabouts of parcels. Many of these smart doorbells you can connect to an app on your smart phone to view camera footage and will get a notification if you have a visitor at your door and for other things, such as when the post arrives.

Remote Garage door opener

This gives you the power to open your garage from wherever you are. Therefore, if you have a trusty friend popping over to check the house then you can grant them access to your home via the garage with a click of a button. On the other hand, if you were to have an intruder (most commonly homes are burgled through the garage) then you would receive a notification immediately.

Security gate

There are a variety of gates that you can use to protect your home, including Aluminum double swing gates, manual gates and wireless gates. These can be fitted near the front of your home or around it. You will also be able to use it every day to let visitors in and out of your property. With this system becoming more and more affordable, protecting your property through secure gates is becoming much more accessible. 

Access code home lock

Do you often lose your house keys? An access code home lock allows you to enter your property using a PIN code. This device rather than using keys. This means that the door is much more advanced and is a good preventative measure for house intruders as it removes the risk of traditional locks being snapped or forced open. This can also be used as a great safeguarding device for the elderly as relatives can access the home using a key code instead of having multiple sets of keys.

LED home lighting

When in doubt, trick ‘em out. By using remote LED lighting, you can schedule times for your lights to go on and off within your home while you’re away, to give the impression that someone is home. This is also a great tool to use day-to-day (e.g. If you want to monitor the lights on behalf of an elderly family member).

From smart doorbells to LED lights, all of these things will help you have a safe and secure home. However, not all security has to be smart. For official guidance, Thames Valley Police have their very own top tips regarding how to maintain your garden, windows, doors etc. to help prevent crime. You can find out more here: https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/residential-burglary/

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

Buying a property for the first time? Here’s what to expect.

Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale talks about what you can expect as a First-time buyer and how to successfully join the property ladder.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you invest in your first property. However, it isn’t an easy step to take; it is time consuming and means spending a lot of money. Statistics show that the average first-time buyer is aged 30, and the average UK Homeowner will pay off their mortgage by 69 years old. Due to this, many are eager to get onto the property ladder as soon as they can. As of January 2018, there were 24,500 new first-time mortgages. So, how can you become a successful first-time buyer? Here are some top tips from Limestone to you.

Put yourself in a position to buy:

This may seem like one of the first things you would prepare yourself for, but there are still many things to consider. To begin with, you need to try and save on average 5%-20% of the cost of the home you’d like. So, say you’d like to spend £150,000 for a home, you’d need to save at least £7,500. If you are sensible with your money and save more than 5%, it grants you access to a wider variety of cheaper mortgages available. Speaking of mortgages…

Shopping for a mortgage that is suited best for you is key:

Shopping for a mortgage is just as important as shopping for a house. There are many lenders with many different deals to offer, so it is important to have a good look around and weigh up your options. At Limestone, we have an exclusive relationship with Lewis Christopher, a financial advisory company that helps source a variety of mortgages including for shared ownership mortgages, no deposit mortgages, and guarantor arrangements. Find out more about their services here: https://bit.ly/2FOv9Dc

Take a look at what local estate agents have to offer – and get yourself a good relationship with them:

Understanding the different estate agents within the area that you wish to move to will help you to feel more at ease with the help of expert advice when buying your first home. At Limestone, we have 20 years’ experience in the local property market. This means that we have top knowledge and advice for first-time buyers, along with properties best suited for you to consider on our website where you can gain all of the key aspects of the properties you are interested in.

There are many other costs that come with buying a home:

Budgeting for a home and a mortgage is one thing, but it is important to budget for additional costs. This could include home insurance to protect your home, moving costs to cover moving vehicle services and extra savings in case the property you have fallen in love with needs vital renovations such as plumbing repairs or central heating installation. There are other costs such as admin fees, booking fees, solicitor’s fees, completion fees, local authority service etc. To cover your back on costs like these, you would need to save anywhere from £4,000-£15,000.

Location, location, location:

It is important to thoroughly research the area you want to live in and see if property prices are within your budget. If you struggle to find a property that you can afford within your desired location, expanding your search by even a few miles may open up new possibilities. Expanding your search criteria allows you to be more open-minded about what you want and how that lines up with what you can achieve.

 

At Limestone, we always have a range of properties available to buy that are suited for a first-time buyer. For example…

One-Bedroom cluster home in Newport Pagnell is currently available for sale within a suitable price range of £165,000. This is an ideal home for a single person or a couple to move into. It has a double bedroom with a built-in wardrobe and allocated parking space. Find out more about the property here: https://bit.ly/2U6DJ3Z

Another ideal property is this 2 bedroom bungalow in Blakelands, which is available for sale within an appropriate price range of £214,995. This property has a garage, shower room and a large rear garden, giving the opportunity for extending. View the property here: https://bit.ly/2RKpEwl

Overall, it is important to understand that you cover all costs when being a first-time buyer, from the house itself, the mortgage and additional housing costs. Keeping an open mind and levelling your expectations about the whole experience will ensure that you get the best property that you can within your budget.

 

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

 

Is Milton Keynes really the place to be? Find out the pros of buying a property and what to expect to get for your money.

Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale talks advantages of moving and living in Milton Keynes, and what the town has to offer that other places don’t.

Milton Keynes 55 years ago didn’t even exist. But now, it has Europe’s largest indoor ski slope, the 14th biggest shopping centre in the UK and a population of 255,700 recorded in 2013, along with being rated the 8th best place to work in the UK. But what types of property can you expect to buy for your money and what areas in MK provide a good return on investment?

The first thing to consider is why people choose to move here in the first place. One feature that is attractive to many is the job opportunities; many successful companies have their head offices in Milton Keynes, such as Network Rail, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Virgin Active, Dominos and Santander to name a few. These jobs are of high demand and well paid, and right on the doorstep of MK citizens.

Another factor is the easiness of commuting from Milton Keynes. The town is located between London and Birmingham, with a train to Euston taking only 35 minutes on a direct line. This means you can work in London without the hassle of London house prices. It is also easy to commute to Oxford and Cambridge as MK is roughly in the middle of the two, along with being able to travel to as far as North Manchester due to good train and road connections. We have covered even more reasons why people move to MK in our May blog post: – https://www.limestonemk.co.uk/benefits-living-milton-keynes-people-love-mk-attracts-people-move-area/

In the area of property demand, many families have relocated to MK with young children, looking to buy or rent their first homes. Experienced buyers also often staying close to where they have bought/lived before, so the demand for homes is always high. With the average house price of £294,887 in Milton Keynes (compared to the UK average of £365,697)  and the average rent price of £500-£1,000 PCM (compared to the UK average of£900 PCM), for a town with so much opportunity and so much to offer, the pricing is decent.

However, everyone has different life situations and different budgets, but that’s not a problem in Milton Keynes as there are a variety of properties on offer.

First time buyers

For a first-time buyer, you are typically looking at buying something not too expensive or too big. A cluster home or one-bedroom home are a particular hit as you have everything you need without the big spending. Limestone are currently selling a one-bedroom cluster home in Newport Pagnell (which you can view here: https://www.limestonemk.co.uk/property-details/?pid=56245). This is a great example of what kind of first-time buyer homes are currently on the market and what you can expect for how much you’re willing to spend in.

Many first-time buyers like to live near Centre MK (central Milton Keynes and the shopping centre) to be part of the excitement and busyness the town has to offer. Locations such as Loughton, Shenley Brook End and New Bradwell all surround the centre, making them commutable areas to the city center. This means that working in the city or days out there are super easy to do, along with going to events, such as if you chose to live in Downs Barn you can see the fireworks on Bonfire Night at the Campbell Park Fair without having to deal with driving around and parking on busy roads.

Second Homes/Family Properties

For second homes or family properties there is an equal amount of options available, along with these locations being in catchment areas of the top schools in MK. Limestone currently have a suitable family home on the market in Wavendon Gate (view it here: https://www.limestonemk.co.uk/property-details/?pid=4693409) this is a good example of the type of family homes on the market in MK as it is within school catchment and has three bedrooms, all within reasonable price.

There are also places such as Shenley Church End have an average house price of £354k and have the best rated school in MK just around the corner. Another area is Bletchley, with an average house price of £279k which is within the area of Lord Grey School, the second-best school in Milton Keynes. There is also a primary school directly opposite this secondary school along with a school next door for children with disabilities.

For things to do with families, there are many parks within the area. For a stroll and a hot drink you can take a trip to Howe Park, with Shenley Wood around the corner. There are also lakes to walk around such as Furzton Lake which also has a hotel and a family friendly pub. There is also Willen Lake which has a pub, water sport activities, GoApe and a park for teenagers and one for children. These places are fantastic for days out with flexible spending.

Empty Nesters or Downsizing

For those who have had children who have flown the nest and are looking to downsize but also keep luxury, areas such as Shenley (avg house price: £375k), Hodge Lea (avg house price: £205k) and Walnut Tree (avg house price £290k) have properties suitable. Limestone currently have two bedroom home on the market (view it here: https://www.limestonemk.co.uk/property-details/?pid=4694393) which is a perfect home for empty nesters as it is small enough for a couple and space for guests, along with being in a location close to a High street, shops, petrol stations etc. There are also activities for adults, such as a trip to Bletchley Park, watch an Ice Hockey game at Plant Ice, or going for a bite to eat at The Hub. You can also join the variety of gyms in the town or take part in classes at local clubs such as the Equestrian Center in Loughton.

All in all, Milton Keynes is a town thriving with job opportunities, things to do and reasonably priced homes. With its perfect location making it so easy to commute and the ease of travelling around the town itself, its hard to see how any other place in the UK has all of these things to offer.

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.