5 top tips for saving money on household bills

With the new year in full swing, there is no better time to take a look at household spends to understand best how you can make some positive changes for the year ahead. In the UK, the average household bills total to £144.30 a month. With some simple tips in this blog, we share how you can save on household bills.

Switching energy supplier

A great place to start to save money on your household bills is by changing energy supplier. If you are not sure how to find the best deals, you can use a variety of comparison sites such as Comparethemarket, uSwitch and GoCompare. Some of these even have rewards you can get such as discounts on meals out and buy one get one free movie tickets, so you can benefit from a better energy supplier and a trip to the cinema!

It is important also that you ensure that your meter readings are accurate, rather than estimations. If your energy supplier has overestimated your energy use, you could be entitled to a rebate. You should also look into a smart meter to help keep track of your energy consumption. You can contact your supplier for more information on installation.

Water meters

 

Following on from the previous tip, water meters could be a great way to save on your water bills. Instead of being charged for the size of your home, you will instead be charged for what you use. However, if you are unsure about whether a water meter will help you save money, simply use the water calculator by The Consumer Council for Water. If you live in a rental property, you will need to ask your landlords permission if you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement of fewer than six months. If your fixed-term tenancy agreement is longer than six months, you don’t need your landlord’s permission to have a meter, but your tenancy agreement may mean you have to ask their permission for alterations to the property.

Combi boilers

Otherwise known as combination boilers, these boilers work by having both a high-efficiency water heater and a central heating boiler in a compact, single unit. They also work to save roof space, by not requiring a hot water storage cylinder or a cold-water storage, but instead come straight from the mains when you turn on a tap.

These boilers are both cost-effective and energy-efficient as the water is heating instantly compared to being heated and then stored in a cylinder. Their compact size benefits for smaller properties as they do not require much space.

 

Broadband savings

With the latest superfast broadband being rolled out through Milton Keynes, it is important to check that you have the best broadband for your area. To find the best broadband for you, simply enter your postcode on switchly. You can also take a look into saving even more with getting broadband without paying for line rental. A major provider for this at the moment is Virgin Media, but there are other options you can take a look at on GoCompare.

Saving on the food shop

The average household spends £3,151 a year on food for at home. As essential as food is, there are certainly ways you can save. Small actions can make a huge difference, such as picking up food in the reduced isles and purchasing own-brand ranges. Furthermore, you can sign up to be a member with supermarkets, such as the Tesco Clubcard, Morrisons more and myWaitrose means every time you shop you earn points which become discounts and coupons that you can use in-store.

You would also benefit from saving on food waste by doing simple things like storing food correctly so they last longer, saving leftovers and reusing as much food as you can in meals. For ideas on recipes, check out lovefoodhatewaste.

Waterside Living: Is it all plain sailing?

Waterside properties have always been high up on the property wish list. With picturesque views and a calming environment, there is a vast array of homes available – from traditional canal side cottages to contemporary townhouses and modern flats overlooking Milton Keynes lakes, rivers and canals.

Milton Keynes is famed for its man-made balancing lakes that are designed to provide open spaces for the town’s residents to enjoy in their free time and are cleverly engineered to prevent flooding. Lakes such as Furzton, Caldecotte and Willen provide beautiful waterfront homes for those longing for a stunning all-year-round view that brings an ever-evolving scene, with migratory wildlife and the changing of the seasons.

But what is the price you have to pay to enjoy this water life? Buyers and tenants are willing to pay a premium for a waterside property and prices can be between 20-50% more than countryside properties. They attract city-dwellers who need an escape from the hustle and bustle of a hectic, fast-paced working life. Milton Keynes creates the perfect balance of both urban and waterside living. You’re never too far away from civilisation and you can still enjoy those gorgeous sunrises over the water.

Let’s dive into the bonuses of waterside living a little deeper…

Boost your health

Living near water has added physical and mental health benefits, allowing for walking, cycling and relaxing with activities such as fishing and boating. Milton Keynes has various cycling and walking routes along its waterways such as the River Ouzel and the Grand Union Canal. Aside from building stamina and maintaining a healthy lifestyle through exercising, you also reduce the risk of developing various illnesses and help to improve your mental health with the release of endorphins.

Lower pollution

If you’re concerned about pollution levels and their impact on your health, these tend to be lower by lakes and rivers as these areas are generally free from heavy traffic found in the more densely populated areas of town. By having a less polluted environment to live in, your general health can benefit from clearer airways, lower blood pressure and improved digestion.

Stimulate your mind

Do you work from home or work in a creative industry? If so, a waterfront property could be the ideal home to relocate to. Imagine having all that creative inspiration on your doorstep – just step outside into a watery scene and feel re-energised by your surroundings. A clear clean environment also helps for a clear mind, which benefits productivity.

Future investments

In terms of investment and value for money, waterside homes are in short supply meaning it is highly likely that your property will always be in demand, making them a sound investment for the future. If you’re considering purchasing a second home in a desirable waterfront location, your property could also provide the opportunity for a holiday let investment.

What are the drawbacks to living in waterside homes?

Home insurance premiums

With all the benefits of owning a beautiful home by the water, there may be an increased risk of flooding. Elevated homes and gardens provide some protection against this, but it can have an impact on insurance premiums if the location is known to flood. Always read the fine print and check you have flood insurance, this is something you can find out more about here. You can also check the risk of flooding with the Environment Agency.

Safety first

If you live in a waterside property with young children, it is advisable to invest in extra child-safety precautions such as securing the boundary of your property with sturdy fencing or gating. It is not only important for children to remain safe around water, but also for pets too. Any boundary fencing/gating will also help to keep pets safe within your property.

A price to pay

Despite the longer-term benefits on investing in these properties, it is inevitably more expensive to buy and rent these desirable properties. With high demand and short supply on the market, they can be difficult to get your hands on. Remember it’s all about location, location, location!

There are many benefits of living in waterfront homes, including personal benefits for your mind and soul. However, factors such as price, availability, safety and insurance should all be considered when deciding whether to invest in these properties.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Tenant Fees Ban: Clean up your costs this Spring with Limestone

Limestone Sales & Lettings Office Manager Paul Neale talks about the upcoming changes that Limestone are putting place for Landlords over Spring.

As Spring approaches it is synonymous with change and new beginnings. Many people embark on a ‘Spring clean’, which often means an increase in dusting, cleaning around the house, but what about tidying your finances?

In our 25 years’ experience within the local property market, we have learned what best to offer to our Landlords. At Limestone, we currently offer a wide range of landlord services to help landlords manage every aspect of the tenancy lifecycle, however, we have recently revised our services to offer landlords greater flexibility and choice.

As of 1st June 2019, the Tenants Fee Act comes into force, which bans tenants letting fees in the private rented sector and sets a cap on tenancy deposits in England. Our understanding is that many agents will pass the fees that they have been traditionally charging to tenants onto Landlords. Here at Limestone, we are committed to NOT passing this cost on and you can be assured that all of our fees are upfront and transparent.

For any new managed tenancy, our charges to the Landlord will be as follows:

  • £350 + VAT – One off admin fee charged at the start of a new tenancy to a new tenant. No renewal fees to the Landlord.
  • 10% monthly commission from the rent collected.

In accordance with this restructured approach, our historic ‘Tenant Find Service’ will no longer exist as a ‘fixed service’. Any Landlord will be able to choose exactly what they want us to do based on our Tenant Find Price List that includes factors such as:

  • Internet advertising and viewings
  • Right to rent and identity verification checks
  • Moving tenant into the property
  • Informing utility companies of new tenant and meter readings and much more

Prices will start from £360 Inc. VAT

Full details of our Tenant Find Price List can be downloaded here.

With all of these exciting changes going on, why not get in touch with us and see how we can help you to manage your tenancy.

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

 

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