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Local estate agent Castles Residential Sales & Lettings from Swindon is delighted to announce that they have been shortlisted for the 2018 Best Agent West Region Award by Relocation Agent Network, a national network of selected estate agents.

The winner will be announced at a black tie evening Awards Dinner held at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel, London on Friday 23 November. The Awards Dinner, hosted by well-known comedian and television presenter Katherine Ryan, will close Relocation Agent Network’s annual National Conference and Exhibition.

The 2018 Best Agent West Region Award is an annual accolade given for consistently making the best overall contribution to the Network throughout the year. It gives nominees the opportunity to become the Network’s ‘Best Agent in the West Region’. To reach this stage of the award programme, agents must demonstrate a commitment to the Relocation Agent Network principles, namely excellent customer service and innovative business initiatives.

Mark Noble, founder and managing director of Castles Residential Sales & Lettings said, “We are delighted to be shortlisted in the Relocation Agent Network’s Best Agent Regional Award category. The nomination highlights our commitment to the Network principles, particularly delivering the very best service to our customers. This award nomination really has been a team effort over the last 12 months and I’m extremely proud of everyone at Castles.”

Richard Tucker, Relocation Agent Network’s Managing Director commented, “Our Best Agent Regional Awards recognise those agents that show true dedication to business innovations and delivering top quality service to their customers. Congratulations to Castles Residential Sales & Lettings for their well- deserved nomination.”


Do This Before You Start Looking to Buy

Like any big life event, buying a house can be both incredibly exciting and extremely stressful, often at the same time. The joy of finding a property you love can swiftly turn to frustration when faced with being outbid, lengthy buying chains and copious legal jargon. Sadly, it is not always possible to escape these issues when buying a house. But with the right advice, you will be able to successfully navigate the potholes and find the right property for you. For buying advice you can trust, contact Castles Estate Agents on 01793 611677.

Unfortunately, many people don their rose-tinted glasses when it comes to deciding to buy a home, focusing solely on the excitement of finding a property and dreaming of its potential. Whilst we agree that this is one of the clear highlights of the house buying process, we are also aware that it can be all too easy to fixate on this and gloss over important factors that should be taken into consideration alongside the excitement.

From our many years of experience supporting people buying homes, we have noticed a continuing trend of people beginning their property search lacking one key thing - an accurate picture of their buying position.

Yes, you’ve saved for a deposit that you think will get you on the road to buying your dream home and you can’t wait to start looking for properties that you think are in your price range. But without first speaking to a mortgage advisor to understand your buying position, you’re starting out with one hand tied behind your back.

The average house price in Swindon is around £231,316.

According to Halifax, the average deposit for first-time buyers in the UK is £32,899 or 16 percent. The minimum deposit required in the UK is 5 percent, however to get a better mortgage offer, buyers need to have saved at least 10 percent. Additionally, buyers will need to make provision for solicitor and conveyancing fees, which can add up. Mortgage fees can cost anywhere from £500 to £2,000 (some mortgage providers will add this to the mortgage total).

The average monthly mortgage payment in the 2016-2017 tax year was £671.23

Without a solid sense of how much money you are working with before you start out, you may find yourself quickly coming back down to earth with a thump.

Decision in Principle

One way to get a clear sense of your buying position is to seek a Decision in Principle from a  mortgage lender. A DiP is a statement from a lender declaring that they would lend you a certain amount of money, usually dependent on an initial credit check. Having a statement such as this can help towards proving to sellers and your estate agent that you will be able to get a mortgage for the amount you need. It also shows that you are serious about buying and are ready to move forward sooner rather than later.

Prospective buyers with such an agreement, even if only in principle, can appear more attractive to sellers, strengthening any offer you make having shown that you have taken action to secure finance. When it comes to finances, a proactive buyer is a much more attractive buyer.

For those who have a limited credit history or have experienced past credit problems, a Decision in Principle can also give greater reassurance of your buying position.

It is important to remember, however, that a DiP is not a guarantee and should not be taken as such. Additionally, while some checks undertaken by mortgage lenders for a DiP will leave a ‘soft imprint’ on your credit file, most will leave a ‘hard imprint’, so it is important to ensure that you do not have too many credit application searches over a short period, as this could negatively affect your credit score.

A DiP can last anywhere between three and six months. During this time, rates may change and you may wish to cancel the principle agreement to take advantage of a better offer. However, it is always better to be prepared and in control of your buying position by having agreed a mortgage in principle, whether you decide to change it later or not. This is Money has a useful mortgage calculator that lets you compare mortgage rates and fees.

For advice and guidance on how to put yourself in the best position for finding a property that meets your requirements, making an offer and having it accepted, speak to our expert advisors at Castles Estate Agents in Swindon. With years of experience helping people with buying and selling homes across Swindon, we have the knowledge and expertise to make your buying process as smooth as possible. Contact us on 01793 611677.

Once you have worked out your buying position, take a look at some of our houses to buy in Swindon.


Frequently Asked Questions on Selling Your Home


Selling your home, particularly for the first time, can be confusing. To the unfamiliar, the housing market can seem like a minefield strewn with legal jargon, false starts and figures. Choosing the right estate agent to be by your side to help navigate your house sale has never been more important. They can provide reassurance and expertise, removing the confusion and helping to find the right buyer for your property at the best possible price. At Castles Estate Agents in Swindon, we are committed to providing a valuable service to our customers when selling their homes. With that in mind, we have put together a list of some common frequently asked questions from people looking to sell their homes. Read on to learn more, or to speak to a member of our experienced residential sales team, contact us on 01793 611677.


When Is the Best Time To Sell?


One of the most common questions we hear from sellers is ‘when should I sell?’ In some cases, you may not have the luxury of choosing when to put your home on the market if you need to sell quickly. And of course, selling your house successfully will be from a combination of multiple contributing factors, not simply when you put it on the market. That being said, there has been in the past a common consensus by the general public, that certain times of year are better for selling than others. In the old days, property sales tended to take a downturn during the summer months due to people being away on holiday. Similarly, people didn’t want to be moving house around Christmas time, so aiming to sell just before then might not have been in your favour. Spring was the best time of year to sell, as there were no big holidays coming up, many people decide to make a ‘fresh start’ in the new year and wanted to move out/move house. Early autumn was also a good time to sell, provided the house went quickly and was not left on the market leading up to Christmas.


However, with the introduction of the internet, coupled with a major shift in life work balance we have now seen a massive flattening out of the housing market trends throughout the year and there is now a much smaller gap between the peaks and the troughs compared to yesteryear.


With the above being true and the lack of property in the current market place, at Castles we are confident that the right property marketed with the right agent at the right price will successfully sell at any point of the year.


For the sake of guidance only and with data supplied on average across the country (which may not be an accurate picture of the local market) we have illustrated a guide to what could be the most suitable times to consider selling your home.


Ultimately, if you are considering a move in the future, we would recommend taking honest and professional advice on how to achieve the best possible price in your required timescales. The team at Castles will be here for you to advise, support and guide you from start to finish, with professionalism and expertise, offering you a service you will be more than satisfied with.



What Are The Current Housing Market Conditions Like?


According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), house prices in Swindon are continuing to rise, with a 0.3 percent increase in June, adding to a overall average increase of 4.3 percent over the last 12 months. Property site Emoov reported that Swindon is the UK’s most in-demand place to live. Reasons cited include new development in the area, proximity to London and transport links and value for money when it comes to housing. An increase in interest rates has affected some people’s decisions to move however, instead opting to enhance their existing house through renovation or extension.


At Castles, we make it our business to understand in depth the market trends and conditions, to be able to best advise our customers. To speak to a member of our team, call us today.


How to Prepare My Home For Sale?


First impressions matter. And when it comes to selling a house, this rings even more true. When preparing to sell your home, you want buyers to be immediately impressed as well as being able to envision themselves living in the property. Before marketing your home, take a look around with an objective eye, spotting anything that could put buyers off, such as broken appliances, peeling paint or dirty windows. Spend some time fixing anything that needs fixing, or call in the professionals for bigger jobs. The front of a property really does represent the best opportunity to showcase your home, a great photograph on your brochures and online, coupled with the kerb appeal as potential buyers pull up for a viewing or as they drive by really can make all the difference. Therefore, ensuring the front of the property and front garden are well maintained will always attract people to click through online and ultimately contact us to arrange a viewing. For more advice on how to prepare your home for sale, read our guide. Or, to learn more about attracting buyers, this handy article can offer some further insight.


When working with a reliable, trusted estate agent, your dedicated agent will be available to advise you on how best to market your property for sale. To speak to our team of experienced estate agents, call us on 01793 611677.


How Much Is My House Worth?


Understanding how much your property is worth is vital when it comes to making a sale, ensuring you get the best price possible. By working with an experienced estate agent, you will receive a greater insight into the value of your property and how to maximise it to attract potential buyers. This is why it is important to get a comprehensive house valuation before putting your house on the market. A house valuation survey will cover a detailed market appraisal alongside accurate and honest advice from trained professionals. Read our recent blog post on how to increase the value of your home before selling.


For a free valuation for properties in and around Swindon, contact Castles today, or complete our valuation request form.



What Is The Difference Between Assessed Value And Market Value?


The assessed value of a property is determined by the mortgage lender and is based on a variety of factors such as the local area, similar property values, the layout and features of the property. The market value is how much buyers are willing to pay for the property.


What Is The Difference Between List Price And Sale Price?


The list price of a property is the asking price set by the sellers. The sale price is ultimately how much the property is sold for.


According to This Is Money, the average difference between the list and sale price is approximately £10,000 less, with a growing increase over the last few years, studies report. As asking prices increase, this trend looks set to continue, albeit gradually. A good estate agent will advise sellers to advertise their home at a realistic, rather than overly optimistic value which could result in the property remaining on the market for a long time or the seller having to make a significant concession to buyers. At Castles we pride ourselves on bucking these trends and work tirelessly by fully qualifying our buyers and use our tried and tested negotiation skills to ensure we maximise the price for our vendors.


What If I Want To Cancel The Contract?


If you have changed your mind about selling or you aren’t happy with your estate agent, you may want to cancel your contract with your existing estate agent. You have the right to cancel your agreement with your estate agent in the first 14 days if the contract was signed outside of their premises, making changing estate agent very straight forward. Outside of this situation, it is important to look carefully over the contract before you sign, checking for any provisions around what will happen should you decide to cancel. A charge may be incurred if you pull out of the contract. Consumer rights advisor Which puts it succinctly in this helpful guide. If you decide you aren’t happy with your current estate agent, we advise discussing your concerns with them before taking any steps to cancel the contract and appoint another agent.


Why Isn’t My Home Selling?


When a house has been on the market for some time, possibly has had a few promising viewings, but has not sold, it is natural to wonder why. There are several factors that might be contributing to why your house remains unsold. Factors such as market conditions, the price, your agent or even a combination of these may be the cause. If you are worried, speak to your agent who can discuss possible solutions with you. For more advice, read our guide on why your property might not be selling.


For further advice and guidance for sellers, read our Sellers Checklist for a list of important factors to consider when selling your home.


About Us


Castles Estate Agents has helped hundreds of people across Swindon move home smoothly and successfully. Our team of dedicated, trained estate agents offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to each of our valued customers, alongside a friendly and professional service you can rely on. Call us today on 01793 611677.




There are many, many different pieces of legislation that may relate to renting a property, a lot of which can be rather confusing when it comes to application. While there is a wealth of laws and guidance that can affect landlords, in today’s article we are going to focus on the key pieces of relevant legislation that affect landlords in the UK. Read on to find out more, or contact a member of our lettings team for information and guidance on 01793422833.

Health & Safety Legislation

Most of the legislation pertaining to renting a property is health and safety related and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Gas Safety

Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations Act 1998

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations Act 1998 refers to the safety of all gas supplies, installations and appliances within a property. Under this legislation, a landlord is responsible for:

  • Maintaining all gas appliances, pipework, flues, etc. Ensuring they meet the manufacturers’ safety recommendations and are checked on a regular basis.

  • Assessing all gas installations to ensure they have been maintained to meet safety standards.

  • Arranging annual tests and inspections by a registered engineer from the official Gas Safe register.

  • Keep accurate records of inspections for a minimum of two years. A copy of these records must be made available to tenants within 28 days of carrying out safety checks or for new tenants, prior to their moving in date.  

If these conditions are not met, your landlord’s insurance could become invalid. HSE is responsible for overseeing these regulations and places a high priority on their fulfilment. If you are found to be in violation, you can face a fine or even imprisonment.

Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 now allows landlords to have gas safety records completed a maximum of two months earlier than the required date, without facing any penalties, as had been the case previously.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 require that each property have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey. Additionally, there must be a carbon monoxide alarm installed in any room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance, e.g. a wood burning fire. At the beginning of each new tenancy, the landlord must make sure all alarms are in full working condition.

Electrical Safety

A landlord must ensure all electrical appliances and installations in the rental property are maintained to a safe standard throughout the length of the tenancy. This includes sockets and light fittings, appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators and any other electrical installation in the property.

Electrical appliances must have the CE (European standard) marking as a minimum requirement to show it conforms with European health, safety and environmental standards.

Each property should have an Electrical Safety Certificate, which can be issued by a certified electrician, as evidence that all electrical appliances and installations are in adequate working condition. As a landlord in the UK (excluding Scotland), you are not legally required to have one of these, however it is recommended.   

If your property is classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO - see section below), you are required to arrange an inspection every five years.

Failure to comply with these requirements can result in invalidated insurance, a hefty fine, criminal charges and imprisonment. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 is set to introduce new powers to authorities to set and enforce more stringent electrical standards on the private rented sector, with potential fines up to £30,000, so it is definitely worth ensuring all your electrical safety is up to code.

Fire Safety

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 sets out the landlord’s legal obligations to ensure fire safety in rental properties.

Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amend 1989, 1993)

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended in 1989 and 1993), … that any fabrics covering furniture and furniture fillings must have passed a match resistance test. The regulations also require any upholstery and fillings to pass a cigarette resistance test.

Following the launch of the legislation, most furniture manufacturers made sure their products were already in compliance with the law. Therefore, most furniture bought after 1988, is likely to adhere to this legislation and will usually have a tag or label detailing this. Furniture and furnishings covered by the legislation includes armchairs, sofas, beds and any nursery furniture such as cribs. Items such as duvets, carpets, curtains or any antique furniture bought before 1950, is not included. If you are planning to let a furnished property, it is important to check any furniture complies with these requirements.

Housing Act 2004

The Housing Act 2004, sets out the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) requirements, giving local authorities leave to assess the condition of a property and any potential hazards. The government has put together some guidance for private landlords to help them understand their obligations under the HHSRS.

Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015

The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 require landlords to ensure their properties have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of at least E, before their property is eligible to rent to new or existing tenants.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, includes provision for landlords, requiring them to show a duty of care to their tenants when it comes to relevant health and safety legislation. Therefore, landlords should ensure tenants are not exposed to health and safety risks when renting out the property.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

Landlords are also subject to certain requirements from the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, which offer a list of actions landlords should take to control the risk from hazardous substances, including Legionella, which cases Legionnaires’ Disease. Landlords should carry out risk assessments and take steps to manage or eliminate the risk.

Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

Under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, landlords are required to keep the property being let in adequate repair and working condition (excluding damage caused by tenant negligence). Any repairs must be carried out within a reasonable time frame, or the tenant may have the right to withhold rent until repairs are completed.

Other Relevant Legislation

Houses in Multiple Occupation

We touched on the issue of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in our last post. To summarise:

A house is deemed to meet the HMO status if…

  • More than three tenants live at the property, making up more than one household, and;

  • Facilities such as the kitchen, bathroom or toilet are shared with other tenants

If the property houses more than five people, sharing facilities and making up more than one household, in a building over two storeys high, it is classed as a ‘large HMO’ and will need to first be licensed by the relevant local authority.

The two primary pieces of legislation pertaining to HMOs are:

  • The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006

  • The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007

They require:

  • Full contact details for the landlord or manager of the HMO property to be displayed within the premises, with a copy given to each new tenant;

  • Fire safety measures to be taken, with fire escapes in full working order and completely clear from any obstructions;

  • Water and drainage to the property to be in full working order;

  • No arbitrary disconnection of gas or electricity supply to the property, without reason;

  • Electrical safety inspection of appliances and installations by a certified engineer every five years;

  • Gas and electrical safety inspection reports and certificates to be submitted to the local authority within seven days of any request;

  • Any common areas of the property to be kept in good condition, taking into consideration safety and decoration;

  • Ensuring that the inside of each property is clean and adequately decorated before tenants move in, and keeping it in good condition for the duration of the tenancy;

  • Suitable waste disposal facilities to be provided.  

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into force in the UK in May 2018 and, contrary to what you might think, they do apply to private landlords. If you are found to be in violation of GDPR, you could be subject to a fine of up to four percent of your turnover (or up to 20 million euros).

If you hold information on your tenants you will need to register with the Information Commissioners Office. You will then need to provide a list of the type of information you hold (such as the personal details of your tenants) and where it is held. If your lettings agent holds the information, you must be sure that they are GDPR compliant in their data handling. You must have permission from your tenants to use their data for the purposes which you use it, so make sure any tenancy agreement includes appropriate data protection provisions or a privacy notice.

Immigration Act 2014

According to the Immigration Act 2014, under the new Right to Rent Scheme, landlords are responsible for verifying the immigration status of a potential tenant before letting to them. If they fail to do this, they can be subject to penalties of up to £3,000. The government website features guidance for landlords, including appropriate steps to take to comply with legislation.

Tenancy Deposit Protection

Landlords renting a property under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, are required to place tenants’ deposits in a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme within 30 days of receiving the deposit.


If you wish to evict your tenant, you must follow the regulations laid out in the Housing Act 1988. If you do not follow the correct procedures, you may be found guilty of harassing or illegally evicting the tenant/s.

If you are renting out your property on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, there are two types of notice required to evict a tenant who refuses to leave. A Section 21 eviction notice is required if you wish to take possession of the property after the fixed term tenancy ends. A Section 8 notice can be used for tenants who are in breach of the terms of the tenancy. A possession order may be sought if the tenant fails to leave after a Section 21 notice is issued.

For further information, read this handy guide from consumer charity Which on evicting a tenant.

For a full list of legislation that features further provisions relating to landlords, see this guide from the National Landlords Association.

A lot of this might seem a bit intimidating, but by working with an experienced, accredited lettings agent who can guide you through the relevant conditions that must be met, you can rest assured that you and your property will be adequately protected. Speak to one of our experienced lettings team for information and advice on letting your property in Swindon. Call today on 01793422833 or complete our online contact form. With Castles, we can guide you every step of the way.

Stay tuned for more in our series on letting a property. To read our guide on Starting out as a Landlord, visit our previous post.

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