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18Jul

Swindon property leader continues to build with two star summer signings

Castles Residential Sales & Lettings, the premier independent Swindon estate agent for both sales and lettings, has announced the bolstering of its team with several new additions.

Carol Wiggins joins in the administrative role for lettings and Matthew Wyeth takes up a new position of lettings consultant. We also look forward to welcoming lettings consultant, Tamzen Rowley, who will be joining the lettings team in July 2018.

The sales team at Castles has also enjoyed some recent new additions with Lauren Peters, Mark Woolhouse and Tom Anderson, all joining as sales consultants. They are pleased to have welcomed Maria Martinez de Toffoletti, sales administrator, who will support the expanding sales team.

The appointments represent another period of growth for Castles, which has won a host of awards in recent years such as the The Relocation Agent Network’s Best Agent, the Wiltshire Small Business of the Year award, and two allAgents Awards. 

Carol is excited to get started in her new position, in which she will offer the Castles Lettings department the benefit of her 30 years' experience in administration. Having recently moved to Swindon with her family, Carol has embraced the new challenge and is already having fun working with the tight knit team, saying "there’s never a dull moment!"

Matthew is also new to Swindon and the Lettings business but at Castles he has already enjoyed huge success and has embraced the team ethic which Castles is known for, as well as the unwavering commitment to offering both landlords and tenants the best possible service. He said: "I get up each day with a spring in my step."

It was recently announced that Castles Residential Sales & Lettings had their best ever month in May 2018 for lettings, and the two new appointments will enable this growth plan to develop further. 

In addition to their unmatched reputation in the Swindon area, Castles are ranked 79th out of 15,000 estate agents in the whole of the UK. Castles are also the preferred estate agent of Cartus, the premier relocation services provider.

Mark Noble, managing director Castles Residential Sales & Lettings, said: "We would like to extend a warm Castles welcome to the new members of the team. During this period of rapid growth, they will provide a timely expansion of our offering, giving us more opportunity to continue delivering an unparalleled service to landlords and tenants alike in the Swindon area. It is an exciting time for the company, and these new appointments underline our determination to retain our position as a leading independent estate agent in Swindon."


04Jul

Swindon-based estate agents Castles Residential Sales & Lettings recently experienced its most successful month ever in terms of new lets agreed in May 2018. June 2018 will eclipse this result further and this is thanks to its exemplary history of helping tenants and landlords with the lettings process.


The organisation’s May 2018 results were almost double those of May 2017, a testament to the dedication and knowledge of Castles’ staff and evidence of the benefits of renting through a traditional local agency. 

Houses are in demand right now, and rental homes are often snapped up within days. However, renting privately can be risky for tenants, who are often vulnerable to their landlord’s every whim and demand. As reported in The Independent last year, a shocking third of privately rented homes fail basic health and safety standards, proof that many landlords are not even completing their most rudimentary duties.

Acquiring a rental home through an agency is one of the best ways to avoid being exploited in this way, as it involves signing a fair and binding contract. 

Alexandra Moise, who recently secured a new rental home through Castles Residential Sales & Lettings, said: “The organisation makes every effort to help renters like me. Looking for a new home can be stressful, so when we started our search we contacted many other letting agencies, none of which rivalled the level of professionalism of Castles.

“When we first met Matt (one of the company’s lettings agents), he went out of his way to meet as many of our needs and requirements as possible. He always called us back to set up more appointments, was always on time for viewings, and his behaviour was thoroughly professional and kind. Overall, the Castles experience has been amazing in helping us through the difficult process of finding a home.” 

As Alexandra’s experience shows, enlisting an agency can take much of the stress out of finding rental properties. This is particularly true when tenants are given short notice by their landlord that they need to move out. Deposits, fees and tenancy agreements can also be worrisome, and enlisting an agency can make these tricky processes much more straightforward, with companies such as Castles able to negotiate on tenants’ behalf.

Mark Noble, managing director of Castles Residential Sales and Lettings, said: “At Castles, we understand how stressful it can be when letting and finding a property, and we are here to help tenants and landlords every step of the way. Here’s to another successful year.”

21Jun

This is the first article in a series on letting a property. Featuring tips, advice and need to know information for anyone thinking of becoming a landlord. If you want to let your property, but aren’t sure where to begin, this series will help educate and advise you so that you are fully prepared to let your property successfully.

 

Today, we will be looking at starting out as a landlord and the steps you need to take before you can begin to market your property.

 

Renting in the UK is on the rise. With the cost of housing growing further and further out of reach for much of the population, renting is the best option available to them. If you are one of the lucky people who own their own home, or even several properties, congratulations! If you are planning on letting your spare property, then read on for some expert, tailored advice from one of the leading estate and lettings agents in Swindon. 

 

Finding a Reliable Letting Agent

 

Your lettings agent will be your guide through the process of letting your property, offering invaluable advice plus years of knowledge and experience regarding the local area and attracting suitable potential tenants. At Castles, we have been working in and across Swindon for many years. Our lettings team are experts in helping landlords navigate legal requirements, effectively market and successfully manage their properties. To speak to a member of our lettings team, contact us on 01793422833 or fill out our online contact form and someone will be in touch.

 

Preparing Your Property to Let

 

When preparing your property to let, there are many factors to consider to ensure you meet legal standards and requirements. A reputable lettings agent will be able to guide and support you through this process with their knowledge of property letting and everything that needs to be done before a property can be marketed to potential tenants. Below, we will go through the main considerations before letting out a property.

 

Your Mortgage

 



Firstly, if you are planning on letting your property you must ensure that you are permitted to do so. Some landlords will have a buy-to-let mortgage, but if you do not have one of these, you will need to notify your mortgage provider and gain permission to let the property. If you own a leasehold property, you must inform the freeholder.

 

Houses in Multiple Occupation License Provisions

 

If you are planning on letting out an entire property to three or more paying tenants, forming more than one household, you will be subject to mandatory Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing and will be required to apply to your local authority for a licence. At Castles, we have a good working relationship with Swindon Borough Council and our lettings agents can support you in making an application for a HMO licence. 

 

Assured Shorthold Tenancy

 

If you are planning on letting your property to private individuals and the rent will amount to less than £100k per year, it will automatically become an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). An AST typically lasts between six and 12 months, but a different, longer fixed term may be agreed with tenants in advance if you wish. When the fixed term has expired, you will be able to regain possession of the property from the tenants, provided you have given at least two months written advance notice to the tenants.

 

Tenancy Deposit Protection

 

As a landlord you are required by law to hold your tenant’s deposit in an authorised deposit protection scheme. Such schemes will look after the deposit and can assist with disputes over deposits at the end of the tenancy. This is vital as you can be fined and lose any eviction rights if you do not adhere to this. At Castles, we can ensure you have access to an authorised deposit protection scheme for your tenants’ deposits and our lettings agents can handle this for you.

 

Housing Health and Safety

 

When you let a property it must be a safe, non hazardous environment for tenants and must adhere to several pieces of relevant legislation. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is enforced by local authorities and assesses how hazardous a property is. Landlords must comply with the HHSRS measures to maintain a safe environment capable of being let.  For information on health and safety legislation, including gas and electrical testing and fire hazards, see our Landlord’s Guide.

 

A property being let needs an up to date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which potential tenants should be informed of.

 

Repairs and Maintenance




Before letting your property you should carry out any repairs and maintenance work that needs doing. Not only is this important for the care and longevity of the property, but it will also help you attract suitable tenants who will pay more rent to live in a nicer property. While people looking for short term lets might not care as much about a few minor things, if you are looking to find tenants to rent for more than a couple of years, you really should do everything to make the property as appealing as possible within your budget. This includes aesthetic jobs such as repainting doors, window sills and potentially entire rooms or upgrading old furniture, door handles and curtains. Most of these repairs and touch ups are minor and do not need to cost the earth. If you have older appliances in the property, make sure they work fully and are safe. A property that appears well cared for is more likely to be looked after well by its tenants.

 

Furnished or Unfurnished?

 

Think about whether you plan to let your property with or without furniture. Most rental properties will include white goods so you may need to invest in a fridge, freezer and washing machine. If you choose to let your property furnished, the main things you should provide are:

 

-       Beds and mattresses

-       Wardrobes and chests of drawers

-       Table

-       Chairs

-       Sofa and armchairs

-       Soft furnishings

 



You will need to put together an inventory of items in the property, with photos and details of their condition to be referred back to at the end of the tenancy when returning the tenants’ deposit. This way, if you need to retain some of the deposit to cover the cost of replacements or repairs, you have substantial evidence to back up your claim.

 

If you decide to let the property unfurnished, you may need to think about putting some items in storage if you cannot sell them or store them yourself.

 

Insurance

 

It is a good idea to get comprehensive landlord insurance to cover the property you are letting. Landlord insurance can cover building insurance, contents cover, loss of rent, property owners’ and public liability and employer liability. Your tenants will be responsible for their own contents cover and you should make this clear. It is important to inform your insurance company what exactly you want your insurance policy to cover.

 

Tax

 

As a landlord you are self-employed and as such are liable to pay tax on any income received from letting out your property. To find out more visit www.hmrc.gov.uk.

 


If all the above sounds a bit daunting, do not worry. Our experienced lettings team is here to guide you every step of the way and we are always on hand to offer expert advice. At Castles, we pride ourselves on our great customer service and communication with our landlords. With us you can rest assured that your property is in safe hands and that you will not be met with any unexpected fees as we are always upfront about our costs. For more advice, read our handy Landlord’s Guide or speak to one of our friendly, professional team on 01793422833.

25May

So, you’re ready. You’ve met with your dedicated estate agent and they’ve lined up some viewings - people who will hopefully take one look at your property and offer the full asking price! If only it were so simple. Fortunately, here at Castles we’ve put together a guide on preparing your home for sale, with helpful hints and tips to wow any potential buyers and get you one step closer to a sale. Read on to find out exactly how to realise the maximum value of your home.


Curbside Appeal    


Before even booking a viewing, many buyers will drive or walk past the house they are interested in, to see how it looks and what the area is like. Don’t waste this opportunity. Make sure you tidy up the front of your house so that it looks presentable. That means clearing away toys and debris from the front garden, mowing the lawn, trimming hedges or sweeping the drive. Perhaps your door and window frames have seen better days? Give them a fresh lick of paint or a touch up if needed. Clean your windows. Remember, first impressions count so if the front of your house looks inviting, buyers will be more interested to see what’s inside. Books, perhaps not, but when it comes to houses, people will most definitely judge by the cover!


Fresh Bathroom

 

Get out the cleaning products. Your bathroom needs to sparkle and shine when preparing to sell your home. Buyers will not be impressed by limescale and mould. For a natural way to remove limescale, use lemon juice, which gives the added bonus of leaving a nice fresh smell. If your bath or shower sealant is crumbling or covered in impossible to remove mould, replace it. Fix any leaky taps or broken toilet seats. Hide your toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, flannels, shampoo, etc.) to make your bathroom appear less cluttered. Finally, open the windows and let some air circulate, especially if your bathroom is prone to damp and mould on the walls.

 

 

In the Kitchen

 

In addition to cleaning your kitchen until it shines, paying particular attention to decluttering your surfaces, make sure you clean any integrated appliances that are part of the sale, such as the oven. If you have a kitchen diner or dining room, set your table as if for a meal, complete with matching crockery, polished cutlery and lit candles to add some ambiance. An age-old tip for showing homes to buyers is to have something baking - cookies are a good choice as you can offer freshly baked cookies to the buyers, further warming them to you and your home. Or, if you’re not much of a baker, simply simmering some spices and herbs in a pan of water on the stove will release the delicious aromas throughout the house. 

 

Garden Space

 

A garden is often a major selling point, so if you are lucky enough to have an outdoor space, it is likely this is one of the bigger factors that will influence the people viewing your home. Capitalise on this by making sure your garden is tidy and not overgrown. Do some weeding and clear away outside clutter. Check there are no broken fence panels, giving them a touch up of paint if needed. If you have an old, unused shed or playhouse that is looking a bit worse for wear, consider tearing it down to make the most of the space. Let the buyers envision sunny afternoons spent relaxing in the garden or indulging in a gardening hobby, not be distracted by overgrown grass or discarded toys on the lawn. You don’t need to transform the space into Kew Gardens, but with a little effort here and there, leaving a tidy space will be sure to leave buyers with a good feeling. 



Animal Friends


We love our pets, they bring us so much joy. But not everyone may feel that way. Be prepared that the people viewing your house might be allergic to, or simply not like your furry or feathered friend. And nothing is more distracting and possibly even off-putting than a barking dog dashing around the room in excitement at strange new visitors. The influx of new people into the home may also prove stressful for your pet, so it’s best to leave them with a trusted friend, neighbour or family member while viewings are going on.

 

Friendly Attitude

 

Remember, you are trying to sell your home. Think about a time you have gone into a shop and the store assistant has been unhelpful or indifferent, did it make you feel less inclined to buy from them? A friendly, positive attitude makes all the difference when it comes to selling. When people are viewing your home, be friendly, answering questions and pointing out some of the key features of the property. What do you like best about the house? Share it with buyers, giving them your unique perspective. Be enthusiastic, but not pushy, as this will turn people off. Offer them drinks or snacks and let them know you’re available to answer their questions. Be prepared with answers to some of their more detailed questions. Check out this Which? guide for the kind of things buyers might ask.

 

Declutter

 

Clear away the clutter in your home. Space is very important to buyers so maximise your space by removing unnecessary items and clearing away things that have been left out such as clothes, plates and rubbish. They will also want to check out the available storage space, so make sure cupboards, etc. are reasonably clear and well ordered. Resist the temptation to shove all the clutter in the attic or garage, as buyers will likely want to have a look there, too. If possible, clear out the garage, as buyers will definitely want to have a look and clearing it will help maximise space. Consider a professional clean to leave your house truly sparkling. Particularly think about your carpets and kitchen appliances that may not have seen a deep clean for some time!

 

Maintenance

 

If there is anything that needs fixing, get it fixed before the potential buyers come round. You might think they wouldn’t notice a broken hinge or leaky tap, but you would be surprised. Buyers want a house that is in good condition. Part of making a good first impression is ensuring any repairs or maintenance are completed in advance. A house that is well cared for is going to look more appealing than one that hasn’t, leaving buyers to wonder if there are any other, more serious issues that might not have been addressed. Check all your light fittings are working and that all plumbing is up to scratch.

 

Decorating

 

Whilst you might adore your bright orange and purple bedroom, it might be a bit of a turn off for potential buyers. If possible, think about redecorating certain rooms, using neutral colour schemes that are more likely to make the room look brighter and more spacious, as opposed to darker colours that can make a room look dingy and small. Carpets are included in this, although if you’re not keen on splashing out on new carpets, strip the floors and lay down some laminate or wood flooring to make the room look new and fresh.

 

Sell the Vision

 

Finally, buyers want to be able to envision themselves living in the property. Minimise distractions as much as possible to allow them to do so. Some estate agents may recommend temporarily removing family photos, as it is hard to imagine yourself living in a home with pictures of someone else’s family distracting you. This is ultimately up to you, however. Buying a house is an emotional purchase - help sell them the vision to increase their connection with the property, to the extent that they will want to put in an offer straight away.

 

As people who have been in the business of selling homes for many years, our best piece of advice is to remove those rose-tinted spectacles when it comes to your home and look at it as though you were the ones planning on buying it. Would you pay the maximum price you are asking for your home in its current condition?

 

For more advice on how to sell your house fast, or if you would like to book a house valuation, contact one of our expert team of estate agents today on 01793 61167 or email us. We are here to help with all your home selling queries. 

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