Top Christmas Craft Ideas

With the big day only a few weeks away and Kirsty Alsop returning to the TV with a whole host of creative Christmas crafts, we thought we’d share some unusual ideas which we’ve found to add some ‘homemade’ love to your festive preparations.

We’ve collated a mixture of traditional crafts as well as some really unique ideas including some amazing upcycling projects that look really stunning. With one for every day left between now and Christmas….you’d better get your skates on!

Christmas Trees

The tradition of a tree at Christmas has been a part of the festivities of the season since it was introduced to England in 1840 by Prince Albert. Since then the ubiquitous spruce has been the centrepiece for most family Christmas celebrations. Over the years, artificial trees have become more popular and their designs more unusual with some people favouring modern reinventions such as LED trees or premium grade fake trees that are indistinguishable from the real thing.

However, in recent years there has been a real trend towards making the Christmas tree a truly unique and quirky focal point.

We’ve seen some great designs of trees made from stacks of old books, branches suspended on wires and even some made entirely from old wine bottles.

There are also functional space-saving designs such as the upside down Christmas tree which stands on its point to make more floor space, the half Christmas tree which can be placed flat against a wall (prefect for smaller properties) and even the full size Christmas tree decal wall sticker for those tiny rooms.

You can find more contemporary Christmas Trees made from recycled wooden pallets on 1001pallets.com

Button Christmas Ornaments

This is a great craft idea that you can do with children although the size of the pieces mean that they should be over the age of 3 to prevent any potential risk of choking hazards. These colourful tree decorations can be made using odd buttons you may have in your crafting box or you can bulk buy buttons in a variety of colours to match your theme this year from craft shops like Hobbycraft.

Other ideas include making snowmen, santas, angels and reindeer. Just vary the colours used and add some extra fine detail.

button christmas crafts

Image via Pinterest.

Christmas Angel and Book Art Decorations

Book art is very popular and can be quite easy to do at home. Using simple folding methods such as the ‘conertina’ can create unusual shapes in old books or from the pages themselves.

We like this Christmas Angel made from sheet music.

wing-decoration-christmas-homemade-wrinkle-necklace-1087641-pxhere.com

Image via PxHere.

These brilliant ‘baubles’ made by Paper Cut Studios look a lot trickier but experienced (and patient) crafters might fancy giving them a go.

Handmade Christmas Wreaths

Of course you can buy Christmas wreaths from many retailers as well as picking up a traditional holly wreath from your local garden centre. However, there are some great ideas for some more quirky and personalised wreaths that you can have a go at crafting yourself; from pom poms to baubles, acorns to corks, scrabble letters to sweets and even sprouts, there are plenty of ways to really make your front door stand out this Christmas.

christmas craft ideas wreaths

Image via Pixabay.

Try to incorporate your own personality and use materials that you have in your craft box and don’t be afraid to be quirky; an interesting Christmas wreath can be a real talking point.

If you want to go more traditional, there are workshops run by florists and hobbyist shops around the area including some being held at the Berkshire Flower School.

Christmas Table Decorations

If you are hosting Christmas Day Dinner (or even Boxing Day) then it is traditional to have a table centre piece and making your own is not as difficult as you might think. For this craft we’ve enlisted the help of the professions to guide you through the stages and local florists, the Berkshire Flower School are running seasonal courses to help green-fingered crafters to pull together a stunning showstopper for their Christmas table.

They also run several other Christmas craft workshops (including wreaths, gifts and other floral decorations) so do check the website for details.

Last Minute (Eco-Friendly) Present Wrapping

If the saying goes that you eat with your eyes then the same is true of Christmas presents as it is for food. There is nothing more delightful than receiving a gift that has been wrapped beautifully. They look great under the tree and make handing out presents that much more magical.

Of course, it’s easy to buy wrapping paper and there is plenty of choice in the shops to create some beautifully wrapped gifts but, if you want to get creative and be environmentally friendly, how about some of these ideas?

  • Use old newspaper print to wrap your gifts and adorn using recycled ribbon offcuts or wool.
  • Wrap gifts for family in pretty scarves that can be reclaimed once unwrapped. Any fabric fragments would work if you don’t want to use up your best silk scarves.
  • If you are a musical family and have old sheet music lying around then these can make some really pretty wrapping paper. Use red wool and interesting charms to make them stand out under the tree.
  • Pages of old books are another way to give a vintage feel to your wrapping. This works well for small gifts and might be ideal for those little stocking fillers.
  • This quirky idea using old shirts makes gifting bottles unique and uses the sleeves to create a perfect bottle bag. Cut both sleeves to length and sew the open up before closing the cuff around the neck of the bottle. Finish off with a ribbon or reuse an old tie.
Quirky christmas craft ideas eco friendly wrapping paper

Image via Eco BnB.

If you have any odd Christmas tree baubles left over, you can add these to your gifts for a little extra creativity.

And Finally…Magical Reindeer Food

With just one more sleep until Christmas Day, there is only one craft left to make and that’s some special reindeer ‘food’ to leave out for Santa’s sleigh pullers.

It’s a lovely way  to help younger children pass the time on Christmas Eve and keep them from asking (seemingly) every five minutes if it’s time to go to bed yet….at 11am!

There are lots of ‘recipes’ out there but the core ingredients are, of course, oats and chopped up carrots. Some people like to add a little dried fruit and some seeds and even some fine dining seasoning with cinnamon, mixed spice and sugar. The most important ingredient is edible glitter to make sure those reindeer keep their magical tanks topped up.

Using edible glitter means that your little ones can try a spoonful to see if it gives them wings! It also means that if any other animals have a nibble before Santa arrives that it wont be harmful to them.

You can bag the food for Father Christmas to take away with him to feed the reindeer on the move or you can put it in a dish on the front lawn.

reindeer food recipe

Image via Flickr.

However you are making plans to spend your Christmas, Property Assistant wishes you, and your family, a very magical time and we look forward to working with you in 2019.

 

 

 

 

Home Heating Hacks: Ways to Reduce Your Winter Fuel Bills

We might have experienced some pretty mild weather so far this Autumn/Winter with average temperatures in the South being higher than usual but, along with Christmas, December often accompanies a rise in the thermostat!

The long-range forecast from the Met Office suggests some colder weather, so we thought we’d take a look at some handy hints to helping you beat a commensurate rise in your fuel costs.

Use the Curtains

When it’s sunny outside, make sure you make the most of the solar heat gains to keep your rooms warm. Likewise, when it is cold and dark, shut the curtains to keep heat in the room.

Always make sure that any curtains that are drawn over a radiator do not ‘funnel’ heat into the window area but into the room instead.

If you can afford, or are thinking of replacing them anyway, use heavy thermally lined curtains to really boost the amount of warmth you can trap in your home.

Stay in Control

Using a timer with your thermostat is one of the best ways to manage your energy bills and to keep your home nice and warm. Many people set their heating to come on when they first wake up and when they get home from work but it can take an hour or so for your heating to reach your desired temperature; this can sometimes mean that your house is toasty warm long after you have left in the morning but doesn’t warm up until you head to bed each night.

It may take some experimenting but you may find that varying the ON/OFF times of your central heating could mean you run it for shorter periods but achieve a more optimal temperature when you need it.

Where’s the Thermostat?

Some modern thermostats can be moved around the home whilst others are mounted in a fixed position. It is important to ensure that this vital piece of control is positioned somewhere sensible to avoid overheating (or underheating) your home.

thermostat heating hacks keep home warm this winter

Don’t just set your heating and leave it. Be prepared to change the settings in line with external temperatures and vary the ON/OFF times. Image via Flickr.

If you keep it in the kitchen where the air is often warmer, the boiler wll think it has reached the desired set point and start to idle. Likewise, if your thermostat is in a cool hallway, then the heating will continue to blast until this space has achieved the right temperature.

The perfect place for your thermostat is somewhere that is out of direct heat source but is indicative of the space you are trying to heat; somewhere like the living room is perfect.

Close Doors

It may seem like an obvious piece of advice but try and get in the habit (that includes everyone) of closing doors when you leave a room. Often corridors, halls and stairs do not have the same level of heating as the rooms we occupy and letting heat escape from one to the other can impact your energy usage.

Draught Proofing

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce heat loss from your home is to draught proof.

Modern homes are fitted with controlled ventilation to prevent damp by reducing condensation; things like trickle vents in windows or ventilation bricks. However, we are talking about those draughts that are uncontrolled such as poorly fitted windows and doors, open chimneys (when not in use) and gaps in floorboards or skirting boards. Letter boxes are also prime culprits!

You can easily fit purpose made draught proofing solutions even with the most basic of DIY skills. Even simple draught excluders are easy to fashion and work well to prevent the troublesome ingress of cold air.

Turn Down Thermostats in Unused Rooms

If you have TRV devices (temperature valves) fitted to the radiators in your home then you can adjust the heat output in each room according to the demand. It is recommended that you turn these down in rooms that are not frequently used.

home heating hacks trv

Turn down radiators in unsued rooms and keep the doors closed. Image via MaxPixel.

Don’t Pull the Rug Out

Hardwood floors are very popular at the moment and they can really add a touch of elegance and style to your home. Unfortunately, if you don’t have underfloor heating fitted with them, they can also be quite cold to walk on, especially in the morning when you are heading downstairs for that first cup of coffee.

Rugs and carpets do stop heat from escaping through the floor and act as a thermal barrier to keep your home warm. We’re not suggesting you re-carpet for the winter but maybe a nice winter rug for the living room would help keep your feet warm.

After-Dinner Heat

Not for anyone who has pets or small children but when you have finished cooking in the oven, you could leave the door ajar and let the warm air heat the kitchen.

Shower with the Door Open

Yes, this might not be for everyone but having a hot shower generates a lot of heat that is often simply turned into condensation as it hits the cold windows of your bathroom. Showering with the door open allows some of this hot air to circulate in the rest of your home.

Consider Insulation

This measure is more of a long term investment than a quick fix but is well-worth considering, particularly if you have found your ‘home for life’. Having said this, insulation can improve the EPC rating of your property and make it a more attractive purchase if you intend to sell in the future.

insulation keep house warm winter

Insulating your home is one of the best ways to reduce your heating bills. Image via Pexels.

Insulation can be added to your loft, walls and floors as well as around the heating pipework.

Costs and savings vary depending on your home but are estimated at around:

Type of Insulation One Off Cost Annual Savings
Loft (Roof) £300-£400 £115-£215
Cavity Wall £330-£730 £70-£245
Tanks, Pipes & Raditors £50-£100 £10-100

Double Glazing

It might be too late, particularly with the looming cost of Christmas on the horizon, but double glazing is an effective way to reduce your heating costs and save significant sums on your energy bills. Not only that but they also do a great job at minimising sound pollution.

Annual savings will vary depending on the size of your home, the existing glazing and who you choose to fit them but you can expect to see a reduction of between £100 and £200 per year in your fuel bills.

Switch Supplier

Okay, so this tip might not save the environment but, did you know that, almost a quarter of people in the UK have never changer their energy suppliers! Although the domestic UK energy market has been open for competition since the late 1990s, there are still some people who feel the process is either too complicated or are not aware of the benefits that are available.

According to the comparison website, uSwitch, the average homeowner could save £482 per year when switching their energy providers to a more competitive contract.

With greater regulation and more streamlined transfer processes in place, switching your gas and/or electricity supplier is easy to do and can be completed in 17 days. You can even switch suppliers every month if you wish to (check terms of the contract you sign up for as some do include early-exit fees).

If you have switched providers in the past, there is no guarantee that you are still on the best deal available, particularly if your fixed term contract has lapsed.

It takes a few minutes to compare your current costs online with the best deals available and, as well as uSwitch, there are plenty of comparison sites offering this service.

switch energy supplier save money on heating

Switching energy suppliers is easy with a comparison site like uSwitch.

 

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ us on Social Media using the links below to stay up to date with more useful lifehacks, hints and tips as well as local area information, house prices and important property news.

You can find more information about saving energy in your property in our blog guide, How to Save Energy in the Home.

Property Assistant on Facebook     Property Assistant on Twitter     Property Assistant on Instagram

Essential First Aid in the Home

Whilst we consider our homes to be a place of safety and security, the truth is that most accidents happen in the home. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), around 2.7 million people are treated in hospital each year as a result of a domestic accident. The total cost to the NHS is estimated to be around £45.63 billion although some of these injuries may require home first aid only.

We’ve decided to put together an essential guide to first aid in the home to help you deal with the unexpected.

Most Common Types of Accidents in the Home

First of all, it is important to know the risks of injury in the home and try to avoid these from occurring in the first place.

The latest statistics from the NHS suggest that the most common accidents in the home are a result of:

  • Falling objects
  • Trips and falls
  • Burns
  • Choking
  • Poisoning
  • Glass related cuts

Prevention is the key to any proactive approach to your family’s health and safety and reducing the risk is an essential part of good home management.

Essential First Aid in the Home avoid a and e

In some case, a basic knowledge of first aid and suitable medical supplies can help you avoid a trip to A&E. Image via Geograph.

You can find out more about fire safety and preventing the risk of burns in the home with our full safety guide, here.

When it comes to avoiding other accidents, a good common sensical approach is important, especially if you have children and animals in your home.

All medicines and cleaning products should be kept out of reach of children and, preferably, under lock and key. According to ROSPA, 25,000 under-fives are admitted to hospital every year after being accidentally poisoned.

Stairs and landings should always be kept clear of clutter to avoid falls. If you have young children then stairgates at the bottom and top of the stairs should be fitted. Each year more than 4200 children are involved in falls on the stairs.

All windows above ground floor level should be fitted with a safety lock and restrictor. Each year, according to ROSPA, 4000 children under the age of 15 are seen in hospital as a result of falling from a window.

Some Home Accident Statistics

In the most recent review of home accident statistics published by ROSPA:

  • The most common room in the house where accidents happen is the living room/lounge.
  • Boys have more accidents than girls.
  • Adults aged 65 and over and children aged 5 and under are most likely to have an accident in the home.
  • 13 children each day under the age of four suffer a severe burn/scald injury. Remember that hot drinks can burn or scald a child up to 15-minutes after it has been made.

Essential First Aid

First of all, if you (or a member of your family of a visitor) is seriously injured then we would recommend that you contact the emergency services as appropriate. Serious falls, burns and poisoning can be fatal and you should not delay a visit to the Accident and Emergency room.

However, there is still plenty of self-help that can be administered to a patient instead of a trip to an out of hours GP.

essential home first aid

Just a few seconds of exposure to boiling hot water can be a serious injury. Prompt first aid can help reduce the severity. Image via Pixabay.

Essential First Aid Kit

Firstly, it is important that you stock the basics of a good first aid kit and that this is kept up-to-date and is regularly replenished.

According to the NHS, a basic home first aid kit should contain:

  • alcohol-free cleansing wipes
  • antihistamine cream or tablets
  • antiseptic cream
  • cough medicine
  • cream or spray to relieve insect bites and stings
  • crêpe rolled bandages
  • disposable sterile gloves
  • distilled water for cleaning wounds
  • eye wash and eye bath
  • painkillers such as paracetamol (or infant paracetamol for children), ibuprofen or aspirin (not to be given to children under 16).
  • plasters in a variety of different sizes and shapes
  • safety pins
  • scissors
  • skin rash cream, such as hydrocortisone or calendula
  • small, medium and large sterile gauze dressings
  • sterile eye dressings ( at least 2)
  • sticky tape
  • thermometer (preferably digital)
  • triangular bandages
  • tweezers

It is also recommended that you keep a basic first aid manual or guide handy with your first aid kit.

essential first aid kit

Always check your first aid kit is replenished and in date. Image via MaxPixel.

Even if you have attended a first aid course (see below) then having a clear, concise and practical guide ready on hand will help. In an emergency or stressful situation, people (especially parents) can panic so the easier the guide is to read and access, the more help it will be. Don’t skip this important step and assume you will be able to Google your query; navigating a smart phone to browse websites will be the last thing you need when you have an injury to deal with….if you can get a good WiFi or 4G reception!

We don’t normally recommend products to purchase but the First Aid Manual published by Dorling Kindersley is written by the UK’s leading first aid organisations; St John’s Ambulance, British Red Cross and St Andrew’s First Aid. It is a comprehensive home first aid manual and offers clear and simple to understand instructions to help you assess and deal with the most common types of domestic injury.

You can pick up a copy via Amazon for under £10 or order one from your local bookstore.

Home First Aid Courses

The St John’s Ambulance and British Red Cross run a variety of regular First Aid courses which are inexpensive and offer a much more detailed approach to dealing with common injuries. In the Wokingham area, these are held in Woodley and Bracknell and run every couple of months.

Courses include Essential First Aid (all ages), First Aid for Babies and Children and Basic First Aid and usually last around 3-4 hours. Places are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and cost around £30-£40.

You can find out more about these potentially life-saving courses by visiting the St John’s Ambulance or British Red Cross websites.

basic first aid training in the home

Basic first aid training is inexpensive but could save lives and reduce serious injury. Image via Wikipedia.

Property Assistant and You

Whilst we can’t offer any practical help in the event of an accident at home, Property Assistant prides itself on being a trusted member of your home network. We produce free information for all our clients on all aspects of running, selling, finding and buying a home. It’s all part of the comprehensive service we provide.

If you would like to receive more information from Property Assistant then sign up here for our value content. Along with regular property market updates and guides on buying, selling or letter, you will also receive free bonus content including home hacks, aspirational property news and lifestyle hints and tips.

Man-Caves and She-Sheds: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Personal Space

Our homes are not just a place to store our belongings, to give us shelter and security but are an important part of who we are. They should be a place that offers sanctuary and restorative calm away from the stresses and strains of the real world. However, sometimes it can be difficult to find a port amidst the storm of our domestic lives which is why we wanted to focus on the growing demand for personal spaces.

The term ‘Man-Cave’ has been popular for a few decades now and describes a place of retreat for men in a domestic environment. Often a converted shed, garage or loft, they can combine the practical need for a home office, tool shed or hobby room with a more fanciful desire to have a ‘den’.

For years, Man-Caves have been regarded as a male-only requirement in a world where (rightly or wrongly) the home interior has largely been decided upon by women. In an effort to maintain an equilibrium of peace and harmony, the Man-Cave has offered men the chance to decorate to their own tastes, introduce the technology they want and to make as much mess as they please.

man cave she sheds home office dunster house

Personal space and be anything from a home study, gym or studio to a cosy retreat for reading a book. Image via Dunster House.

In recent years, and quite rightly, women have also demanded their own personal space on the same terms; somewhere they can call their own, where they can escape to when they need to be on their own. The term She-Shed is used to describe just such a place and the two terms are fast becoming a popular phrase when estate agents are showing potential buyers around a property. Any space which offers people their own personal space is adding value to homes.

So, how can you achieve a personal space in your home, particularly if it is already at a premium?

Man-Caves and She-Sheds: Choices, Choices, Choices

The beauty of having a personal space is that it doesn’t need to be the size of the Taj Mahal; a Man-Cave or a She-Shed can be a box bedroom, a converted loft/garage or an ordinary shed that has been transformed. At very least, a studio flat can be divided with the use of screens to give you your own tranquil corner.

However big or small your home and garden is, there is always an option for re-claiming some space to make your own.

Man-Caves and She-Sheds: Great Ideas

With freedom of space and decoration in mind, we looked at the ideas of some creative hobbyists, designers and homeowners and their ways of creating Man-Caves and She-Sheds.

Californian artist and architect, Alex Wyndham is inspired by a combination of his surroundings and ecology, blending simplicity of design and materials with a complex beauty. We loved his HAWKhouse cabana built into the mountainside but this compact but functional ARThouse he built in a back-garden blends perfectly shows off a great Man-Cave/She-Shed. Designed with practicality in mind but with a touch of whimsy the spaces offers a serene but cosy environment.

The key to the success of this design is that it incorporates existing needs such as recycling bins and garden storage and combines these with the shed. You can find the space you need for your Man-Cave or She-Shed by looking to replace, convert or integrate existing structures.

man cave she shed alex wyndham arthouse

It’s the interior of a space that gives it a personal touch and you don’t have to have a huge budget to achieve it. Image of ARThouse via Alex Wyndham.

Of course, if you have a big garden and a big budget then you can really let your imagination run wild. There are lots of options online for timber garden buildings; most of these can be erected in a matter of a day or so with no planning consent required (check height and boundary restrictions with your local council).

Dunster House is one of the UKs largest suppliers and installers of timber outbuildings and they have a range of sheds, summer houses, garden offices and log cabins which start from around £160 up to £10,000+.

We liked the price and versatility offered by their Rhine Log Cabin  4m x 3m . At a costs of £1,789 you get an extra room that could easily become a home gym, a tranquil yoga studio or crafters workshop. If you are a handy DIYer then the installation is a good project, but you can also tailor your order to include a full delivery and install service. What’s more, their cabins can all be upgraded to include premium glazing, insulation and roof protection. You can even add optional extras like storage, cabin furniture, eco-guttering and even a toilet.

home yoga studio dunster house

This home yoga studio has been achieved in a small space. Image via Dunster House.

If money is no object then a custom-built space can deliver enormous benefits. These ‘Backyard Rooms’ have been tailor-made to suit the individual demands of each client whether they want an art room, home cinema or garden office.

backyard rooms man cave she sheds

If you have a bigger budget then a bespoke design could offer you something very chic. Image via ArchiBlox.

Of course, not all personal spaces have to come at huge expense, nor do they have to be the most modern of structures. We loved this potting shed designed and built by the NittyGrittyDirtMan, a home gardener and blogger whose Man-Cave perfectly suits his needs. Measuring 10’ by 10’, the shed was placed in a corner plot of his garden and combines the practical needs of his young seedlings as well as delivering big on offering him a peaceful sanctuary.

At the end of the day, the value of your Man-Cave or She-Shed is not about how big it is or what it is made from but the fact that it is your own. An ordinary tool shed can easily be transformed with a lick of paint, some TLC and a bit of creative touches to create an oasis of calm.

We’ll leave you with our final inspirational she-shed with this shabby but chic studio. Embracing the surrounding forest in a magical and fairy-tale design, this fresh Nordic style shed is like a cottage in miniature. A simple white wood wash interior gives it a spacious and clean feeling. Perfect for adding highlights of colour with fabric or decorations, including festive ones. The addition of a wood burning stove is inspired to really bring that much needed warmth for the winter months.

shabby she shed

Once you have the shell of a space, let your imagination run wild. Image via My Shabby Streamside Studio.

And finally, if you have decided that there is not a single square inch left in your current home to give you that much valued personal space and are looking for your next home, we can help there too. Property Assistant are an estate agency built exclusively around the ethos that working for our clients should be like working for our family. Buying a house and starting a new adventure is an exciting (and sometimes daunting) prospect so taking the journey with someone you trust is important.

We’d love to know more about your dream plans for a personal space of your own so get in touch and let us know how your man-caves and she-sheds pan out.

Stay in touch for more bonus content from Property Assistant by giving us your contact details.

Slashing the Risk of Fire in Your Home: A Home Safety Guide

Our homes are, without doubt, the most expensive asset that any of us will ever own and although we can insure against the financial damage caused by fire, the real value in most of our properties is in the people that occupy them.

In 2017, there were a total of 30,340 incidences of fire in the home with a total of 256 fatalities and a further 5,316 casualties. Fire can not only cause unimaginable tragedy with the loss of loved ones but can also destroy irreplaceable belongings. Whilst most fires are accidental (89.32%), the majority of these accidents can be avoided with proper fire safety assessments. Coupled with pro-active and up to date fire alert system and escape plan, you can help reduce your family’s risk of becoming another statistic.

In this feature, we look at how to assess your home for fire risks, avoid common causes of fire and ensuring you have reliable smoke detection and a safe means of escape.

Common Causes of Fire in the Home

According to data analysed by the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service the most common causes of fire in the home are distraction and having dangerous or unsuitable equipment in use.

Distractions occur naturally during our day to day lives and usually result in nothing more than an annoyance or minor accident. However, when cooking or using heaters, distractions such as answering the door or telephone, getting waylaid by children or other family members can be extremely dangerous.

home fire safety kitchen fires

Kitchen fires are a common way that domestic fires are started and can happen quickly. Image via Flickr.

Ill-maintained or unsuitable equipment can have electrical faults and are at risk of overheating. Coupled with other dangers such as equipment being left on charge and using too many plugs in extensions cables run from one socket, our modern lives can pose a real threat.

Assessing Fire Risk in the Home

You can reduce the fire risk in your home by performing some basic checks:

Cooking with Oil

You should never fill the pan you are using more than one third full of oil and always keep a close eye on the pan; over half of all fires are caused by cooking accidents with a fair majority of these being related to cooking with oils.

If your oil does catch fire then never use water to try to douse the flames as this can cause a fireball. If it is safe to do so, turn off the heat and get out, stay out and call the fire brigade out. Few of us are organised enough to have an appropriately rated extinguisher for oil fires so it is best to take your safety seriously and call the fire and rescue service.

Candles and Oil Burners

If you are a family that uses candles or oil-burners in the home then consider the risk that these pose and ensure that you follow the safety guidance issued by the Fire and Rescue Service:

  • Never place tealights on flammable surfaces or objects as the aluminium base can get extremely hot.
  • Likewise, never place candles or burners underneath flammable surfaces and objects such as shelves or near curtains.
  • Always ensure that all candles and exposed flames are fully extinguished before going to bed.
  • Never leave a naked flame unattended, particularly if you have small children and pets.
home fire safety candles

Candles should never be left unattended or near flammable materials or surfaces. Image via Max Pixel.

Portable Heaters

If you use portable heaters around your home then you should ensure that they are kept well away from flammable material whilst they are in use and switched off when unattended.

As with other electrical equipment, the cables should be maintained in good condition and be switched off before you go to sleep (see below).

Never dry clothes near portable heaters.

Electrical Safety

Take the time to visually inspect all of your cables, extension leads and plug sockets. Any damage such as cracking, scorching or visible wires should mean that this component is scrapped or not used. All extension cables and plugs should be checked to ensure that they are not supporting more than their maximum load (usually 13 amps) with high-powered items such as washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers having their own socket.

Extensions leads should not be plugged in to each other and reeled extension cables should always be fully unwound to prevent overheating of the cables.

Extension cables should never be run into damp rooms such as washrooms, bathrooms or even the kitchen where water could get in to the sockets causing a risk of electrocution.

It is also worth inspecting your mains electrical box to ensure that there are no visible signs of overheating such as charring or scorch marks. Combustible materials should also be stored well away from the mains intake position.

Unplugging appliances at night is recommended, particularly with older machines; washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers account for 20% of fires started in the kitchen/utility room. This should also be applied to devices left on charge including e-cigarettes, some types of which are known to have volatile batteries.

fire safety in the home electrical safety

Ensure that your electrical appliances aren’t overloading a socket or extension lead. Image via Pixabay.

Electric Blankets

Though not as common as they once were, some households still use electric blankets to warm the bed at night. They should be regularly checked for:

  • Signs of scorching
  • Exposed elements
  • Fraying fabric
  • Damp patches
  • Loose connections
  • Worn leads
  • Creasing and folding

You should never use an electric blanket that has any of the above signs of deterioration. You should also unplug these before you go to bed unless you have a device that is fitted with a safe all-night thermostat.

Even if your blanket looks okay, you should still have it checked every three years and replaced every ten years.

Smoking and the Home

If you smoke inside your property you should always make sure that you have fully extinguished your cigar or cigarette and matches. Never smoke when you are sleepy or in bed.

home fire safety cigarettes and smoking

If you smoke indoors then always make sure cigarettes are extinguished properly and never left burning unattended. Image via Pxhere.

You should always keep your matches and lighters away from children and ensure that your ashtray is cold before tipping the contents into a bin (preferably an outside one).

Fires started by cigarettes are the most common cause of fatalities with one in three deaths being started this way.

Making an Escape Plan

Always make sure that you and your family have at least two escape routes planned for an emergency situation, including a fire. They should take in to account the possibility of your main route of entry/exit to your home being blocked by fire as well as consider the eventuality that you are trapped on a level above the ground floor.

Escape routes should be easily accessible and kept clear; a back door (however infrequently it is opened and closed) should not be used as a storage area. Security is important but consider how you would open a locked back door in the middle of the night in a house that is rapidly filling with smoke.

Always take your mobile to bed with you so that you have a method of contacting the emergency services and remember that the number to dial from a mobile is 112.

Every member of your household should know the escape routes and it is worth having a regular check to ensure that children can follow this routine.

Remember, if you discover a fire the advice from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service is simple; Get Out, Stay Out and Call the Fire Service Out.

fire safety in the home

If in doubt, get out and call the fire services out. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Importance of Smoke Alarms

The simple fact is that you are twice as likely to die in a fire if you do not have a smoke alarm fitted in your property.

All homes should be fitted with a smoke alarm, one per floor and fitted to the ceiling in either the middle of a room or on a hallway/landing. With most fires starting at night, they need to be positioned somewhere that the alarm will wake even the deepest of sleepers.  Never fit an alarm in a kitchen where it is likely to go off regularly as this may cause you to take the batteries out or remove the device entirely.

These simple, cheap and easy to replace alarms are a vital early warning device designed to give you the best chance to escape from an emergency situation.

Not only should your home be fitted with smoke alarms but they should be tested weekly, the batteries should be replaced regularly and the alarms themselves replaced every ten years. Did you know that 20% of fires that start in the home occur in properties that have smoke alarms but where the batteries have been removed or have run down?

Property Assistant is an independent estate agency based in Wokingham but covering property related sales, lettings and relocations within the Thames Valley. We see things differently to our competitors and lead by example in putting our customers in the know when it comes to all things property related; sharing knowledge empowers people to make the best choices.

To find out more about the services offered by Property Assistant, contact us today on 0118 912 3270.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Regulating Estate Agents in the UK

Are UK estate agents regulated?

It’s a pertinent question that many people ask, and the short answer is yes. However, there have been many calls from the public to further improve the regulation of the business to help professionalise and improve customer satisfaction in the industry.

According to government research, over 60% of homebuyers and sellers have experienced stress during the homebuying process with almost a quarter stating that, if they were to do it all again, they would choose a different estate agent.

The research formed the basis to the government’s plans to professionalise the industry. So, we take a look at the current regulations, how these are going to change and what you can do if you are unhappy with your estate agent.

estate agent regulations

Just how professional are estate agents supposed to be in law? Image via Pixabay.

Current Regulations for Estate Agents

The work undertaken by estate agents is already covered by plenty of regulations, many of which are covered in separate parliamentary Acts, principally the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.

The general guidance of this law means that estate agents must act in the best interests of their clients, and that both sellers and buyers are treated fairly, honestly, and in a timely fashion. Standards of the profession are upheld in law which cover all aspects of an estate agents role including marketing, handling negotiations, passing on offers, handling clients money and the preparation of sale particulars.

Estate agents must also carry suitable insurance to cover any liabilities from their business dealings as well as be a member of an approved property redress scheme.

Agents who do not comply with any aspect of this law could be banned from trading. Failure to follow this ban can result in prosecution and substantial fines being imposed.

Additional areas of regulation include:

  • Cancellation of Contracts Regulations
  • Provision of Services Regulations
  • E-commerce Regulations
  • Data Protection Act
  • Anti-Money Laundering Regulations
  • Town & Country Planning Act (Sale Boards)
  • Equality Act
  • Energy Performance Certificates

However, currently there is no requirement by law that estate agents must be licensed or qualified.

Regulating Estate Agents: Proposed Changes

The proposed change, announced by the Housing Secretary, Sajid Javid, last week will go further than the current regulations to ensure that all estate agents:

  • Must hold a professional qualification.
  • Must be transparent about the fees they receive from referrals to mortgage brokers, solicitors and surveyors.

In an effort to curb the practice of gazumping (see Property Jargon Buster), measures are also likely to be introduced to encourage voluntary reservation agreements.

The plans also lay out changes in other areas to help facilitate smoother housing transactions including reducing the timescales currently in place for the return of local authority searches. The proposals will ensure that these are returned in under 10 days.

Lastly, the government wants to provide more resources to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team to help enforce regulation, including banning non-compliant agents from trading.

regulating estate agents UK

It is hoped that the new regulations will professionalise the estate agency industry. Image via Pixabay.

What to do if you are unhappy with your Estate Agent

The first port of call should always be directly with your agent themselves and, even if the professional relationship has broken down, you need to give them a chance to put things right before escalating the matter.

Some things take time to resolve, so be prepared to be patient whilst matters are dealt with but, if you are still not getting satisfaction, you should follow the complaints procedure.

Since 2007 (under the Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007), all estate agents must belong to an ombudsman scheme. Typically, this will be one of the following:

You can also lodge a complaint with their professional trade body such as the National Association of Estate Agents: Propertymark (NAEA) or the Independent Network of Estate Agents (INEA).

property redress schemes regulating estate agents

Property redress schemes are designed to make estate agents accountable and provide customers with an independent body to complain to. Image via Pixabay.

Each of these channels will outline the official procedure for investigating your complaint to find a suitable and appropriate resolution.

Here at Property Assistant, we go to every length to keep our customers happy and we like to think that we can resolve any complaints; no matter how big or small. Communication and trust are key to the success of any relationship and we believe that our bond with you is an important one.

If you would like to know more about the way we do business then we’d like to hear from you.

Featured image via Pixabay.

 

, ,

Thames Valley Area Guide: Ascot

Principally known for being the home of the Royal Ascot Racecourse, Ascot is a small town in East Berkshire. It also has a reputation for being one of the most expensive places in the UK, both to rent or buy a property.

In this guide, we take a close look at what Ascot has to offer its residents as well as focus on the demographics, facilities and our top picks for things to do in the town.

Ascot: A Snapshot

Life, and the facilities, in Ascot tends to be focused around the racecourse with the main high street running parallel to the course itself. You can find all of the essential services including a supermarket (Tesco Express), banks, library, police station, cafes and small independent shops.

explore the ascot area

Ascot is a commuter town with a small high street. Image via Geograph.

The town is also the site of the local NHS hospital, Heatherwood. Though it has no emergency facilities, it is the closest facility for minor injuries to the surrounding area of Bracknell, Sunninghill and Bagshot.

Notable residents of Ascot include Chris Evans and Marti Pellow as well as being the home of both Ringo Starr and John Lennon for a time.

Of course, the face of this small commuter town changes entirely during Royal Ascot Week when the racecourse plays host to the world’s most famous horse race meeting. Dating back to 1711, the event (and the build-up) has a huge impact on local services including trains, traffic and businesses.

Ascot: The Detail

Part of the civil parish of Sunninghill and Ascot, administration of the town itself is split between Bracknell Forest Borough Council and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead unitary authority.

It has long been a part of the Crown Estate and the racecourse is still technically owned by the Queen. The history of Ascot and its racecourse can be dated to the early 18th century when Queen Anne noted the open heathland was an ideal place to gallop. Not five miles from Windsor Castle, she founded the racecourse and the first meeting was held in 1711 to contest for Her Majesty’s Plate.

Location

Ascot is situated 10 miles to the east of Bracknell and south of Windsor. Like Bracknell, Ascot is well located for the M3, M25 and M4, being just a ten-minute drive from the former.

Ascot is also on the main Reading-Waterloo line being under an hour from London Waterloo. You can also change at Ascot for services to Aldershot, Guildford and Bagshot.

thames valley area guide asoct

Ascot is less than an hour by train to London Waterloo. Image via Wikimedia.

Demographics of Ascot

Categorised by the Office for National Statistics as being a commuter suburb, Ascot is part of Bracknell Forest Borough Council.

At the last census report, a total of 5,753 residents were recorded in a total of 2,228 households, being split as follows:

  • Detached house or bungalow: 718
  • Semi-detached house or bungalow: 1011
  • Terraced house or bungalow: 185
  • Flat, maisonette or apartment: 297
  • Caravan or other mobile or temporary structure: 17

The occupations of residents in Ascot is varied but the majority are employed in professional or senior roles:

  • Managers, directors and senior officials: 16.6197%
  • Professional occupations: 22.2183%
  • Associate professional and technical occupations: 17.0775%
  • Administrative and secretarial occupations: 11.5845%
  • Skilled trades occupations: 8.9789%
  • Caring, leisure and other service occupations: 8.9437%
  • Sales and customer service occupations: 5.1761%
  • Process, plant and machine operatives: 2.7465%
  • Elementary occupations : 6.6549%

The vast majority of resident are either in very good or good health (87.6%) with just 0.49% being in very bad health.

27% of the population are under the age of 18 with 16% over the age of 65, the median age is 40 years old.

Education

Ascot itself has a couple of primary schools with South Ascot Village Primary School and St Francis Catholic Primary School, classed as being ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ respectively in their latest Ofsted reports.

There are also several independent schools including Heathfield School, the LVS and Papplewick as well as St George’s School, The Marist Preparatory School, and St Mary’s in neighbouring Sunninghill and Cheapside. St George’s has the prestige of being attended by Princess Beatrice of York; St Mary’s was the school of choice for Caroline, Princess of Hanover.

Secondary education is provided by the Charters School in Sunninghill which is an ‘Outstanding’ school.

Our best picks for…

…eating out.

La Sorrentina on Sunninghill High Street has a great reputation for its Italian food including seafood, steaks and classic pasta dishes. It’s a modern restaurant but is far from pretentious and doesn’t have a price tag to suit the local property prices.

eating out ascot

Reviews for La Sorrentina are excellent. Image via website.

…live music.

Jagz is situated right outside the train station and has a reputation for incorporating several entertainment venues in one. It offers a nightclub, bar and live music platform. During the summer, the place can get exceptionally busy and during Royal Ascot Week there is always a big queue to get in.

However, off-season, there are plenty of events being run including Northern Soul, tribute acts and even cabaret nights. It’s a popular but intimate venue and offers membership if you want to be guaranteed entrance.

…picking up a gift.

Little Wishes on Ascot High Street is a cute little boutique gift shop offering an intriguing selection of toys and inspirational knick-knacks.

It’s quite small but stock changes all the time so it’s worth dropping in to see what’s new. Little ones can play with the train set play table whilst you enjoy a browse.

They are open Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 5.30pm.

…a sweet treat.

On the high street you can find a small bakery, Anne-Marie Patisseries that serves some wonderful cakes and bakes. It’s best to hit the shop as early as you can as most of the best treats are sold well before lunch. It’s a small shop but they often have a few tables outside on sunny days where you can get a coffee.

…horsing around.

Of course, no experience of Ascot would be complete without spending some time at the racecourse. Whilst the main event of Royal Ascot Week is certainly worth attending, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the facilities on offer at this landmark location. As well as other racing events, you can also experience open air cinema, fine-dining plus some great events.

They regularly hold the festival of Food and Wine, Beer Festival and fireworks spectaculars. See their website for details.

ascot area guide

Ascot wouldn’t be Ascot without the racecourse. Image via Flickr.

Housing in Ascot

The overall average house price in Ascot is a whopping £871,508 which is 45.49% more than nearby Sunningdale and 83% more than Winkfield Row.

The majority of houses that have been sold over the last few decades have been detached where the average house price is £1,449,697. A semi-detached property is priced at around £530,936 with flats being £595,703.

House prices over the last 12 months have increased by 8% and by 22% since 2014.

ascot house prices

House prices in Ascot are among the highest in the UK. Image via RightMove.

If you are considering a move to Ascot or looking to sell your home then we would love to hear from you. We think it’s important that you know all you can about an area before you buy property and, as trusted local estate agents, we think we are well placed to give you all the information you need.

Property Assistant is an independent, family-run estate agent serving clients across the Thames Valley specialising in property sales and lettings. Contact us today on 0118 912 2370 to discuss your plans for your next move.

Featured image via Geograph.

,

Green & Ethical Mortgages: A Guide to Alternative Property Lending

Once a quirky option for the staunch environmentalists, green and ethical living has become a hot topic over the last few years. As more of us recognise our social responsibility to the planet and our communities it seems only right that our choice of finances should also reflect our higher aspirations for green and better living.

So, what are green and ethical mortgages and can they offer more than just a ‘feel-good’ factor? We take a look at the mortgage markets

What is a ‘Green’ Mortgage?

There are several types of green mortgage but typically it constitutes a loan on a property which meets certain minimum criteria for energy efficiency.

In April 2018, Barclays became the first major UK high street lender to offer a Green Home Mortgage. The product is designed as an incentive for the purchase of homes that have an EPC rating of A or B. Offering lower interest rates than other similar mortgages, the mortgage is currently only available on new builds through certain developers but it is hoped that this will be extended to cover all major housebuilders by the end of 2018.

green mortgages

Green mortgages are applicable to any kind of property but generally require you to invest in energy efficiency. Image via PxHere.

As well as Barclays, there are several other smaller lenders in the UK that offer green mortgages to incentivise owners of existing properties to invest in energy efficient technology. These include the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society and The Ecological Building Society.

Another variation on the green mortgage is one which is designed to offer buyers the opportunity of making their investment ‘carbon neutral’. In these cases, the mortgage company pledges to plant a number of trees each year for a fixed term; the idea being that the carbon emissions of your home will be offset by your choice of mortgage.

These types of mortgage are more of a gimmick and there is some debate as to whether the action taken by the lender truly results in a ‘carbon neutral’ exchange.

Some lenders will also offer green mortgages which include additional capital to help homeowners to invest in energy efficiency improvements to their home.  In these instances, it is usually the property (rather than the person) who is being approved for the mortgage.

Another form of ‘green’ mortgage is one that is sourced from a lender whose corporate investment strategy does not include any forms of fossil fuel development.

In general, there are relatively few green mortgages available on the market and most of these are at a premium to other similar products. However, as more banks and building societies commit to sustainable financing then we can expect to see more of these kind of mortgages available at comparative costs.

What is an ‘Ethical’ Mortgage?

Ethical mortgages are different to green mortgages in that they are not linked to the house against which you are borrowing but are sourced from lenders who meet certain criteria when it comes to their own investment strategy.

ethical mortgages

Ethical mortgages tick boxes on many different core values. Image via Creative Commons Images.

Most commonly, ethical mortgages are only available from lenders who do not invest in unethical sectors (including fossil fuels). They are companies that approach investment for their customers based on co-operative values, sustainable housing and community projects and creating a culture that promotes ethical business relationships. Their own investment profile usually includes lending and donations towards projects such as reforestation, charities and climate change.

For this reason, mutual lending societies are the most common way to source an ethical mortgage.

The following building societies tend to score highly for their ethical lending:

  • Skipton Building Society
  • The Ecology Building Society
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • Leeds Building Society
  • Newcastle Building Society
  • Coventry Building Society

The traditional high street go-to for ethical lending, The Co-Operative, has been struggling over the last few years to maintain its profile in this area but are still a good source of responsible, ethical lending.

Choosing an Ethical or Green Mortgage

Before choosing any kind of financial product, particularly a mortgage, we would strongly recommend discussing your options with an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA).

alternative mortgages green and ethical

Whatever mortgage you are looking for, make sure it is the right one for you and the property you are buying. Image via Flickr.

It is important to thoroughly understand the terms of your borrowing, particularly with green mortgages as they may require you to make substantial renovations to your property to meet minimum energy efficiency requirements. Sometimes the cost of these upgrades can make borrowing unviable.

Again, it is important to point out that most green and ethical mortgages come at a premium to other forms of lending. A reputable IFA should be able to advise you on alternatives depending on your goals.

 

Here at Property Assistant, we work with both local and national IFAs that provide reliable and independent advice. Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, we can recommend the services of a suitable adviser to help discuss your needs for any form of home lending, whatever your needs.

Featured image via Public Domain Pictures.

Property Jargon Buster: An A-Z Guide

All industries have their own jargon, whether it’s healthcare, banking or snowboarding, knowing the lingo can mean the difference between seeming a fool and making a foolish mistake. In the property industry, the majority of terms used are self-explanatory but some could do with a little guidance to help the layman to understand its meaning.

In this guide, we’ve put together an at-a-glance view of all the main terms and phrases used by estate agents, conveyancing solicitors and property professionals so that anyone can navigate their way through the jargon.

At Property Assistant, we like to think that we speak plain English, so no-one gets confused or mislead, but we also know that sometimes things get lost in translation so consider this excerpt your English to EstateAgent-ese translation tool.

For the full property jargon guide to download as a PDF, visit our library where you can also find other useful resources.

Chain

A common term relating to all of the parties (or, links) involved in the sale of a home. A simple chain will only involve two links; a buyer and a seller. In complicated chains, there can be many more links involving several properties, each having a sale or purchase which is dependent on another party.

As a result, chains are subject to collapse; one party pulling out of a purchase can impact many other

Chain-Free

Used to describe either a buyer who does not rely on the sale of a property in order to complete their contract. First time buyers are often ‘Chain Free’ as are properties cash (or investment) buyers.

property chain definition

Chain Free. Image via PxHere.

Conveyancing

A term used to describe the legal processes involved in the sale and purchase of a house.

Exchange of Contracts

The stage of the contract process where both the seller and buyer are legally committed to the sale and purchase of a property, but at which point the transfer of the home has not been made. Though the Completion can still become delayed, it is typical for the final transfer of ownership to be made within 28 days after the exchange of contracts.

Flying Freehold

A term used when part of a freehold property overlaps (either overhangs or underlies) another freehold property (or land). Common examples include balconies which extend over neighbouring land or a room that is situated above a common passageway.

definition flying freehold

Flying Freehold. Image via Flickr.

Gazumping

Coming from a Yiddish word (‘gezumph’) meaning ‘to cheat or overcharge’, gazumping is a common term used in the property market when a vendor accepts an offer from a seller but later rejects it in favour of a higher offer from another party.

Gazundering

Derived from the term, gazumping, this term is used when a buyer reduces his offer price on a property just before the exchange of contract.

Gifted Deposit

Referring to a deposit that has been give you for the purchase of a property. It is often used by developers with new builds and is a way to incentivise sales, especially with first time buyers.

Ground Rent

Applying only to leasehold properties, Ground Rent is a sum of money paid to the owner of the property by the leaseholder. It is usually billed annually along with service charges.

Guarantor

In the event that a buyer has poor credit, a guarantor will be a person who has a better credit rating who offers their security that the loan or debt will be repaid by them instead. Guarantors pledge to be liable in the event of a loan being in default to meet the repayments or the full cost of the debt. Typically, guarantors are a family member and it is common for young first time buyers to have their parents stand as guarantor for their first mortgage

IFA

Someone who has been trained and qualified to offer financial advice. They should offer solutions to their clients based on the whole market and not be tied to a certain lender or type of product. All IFA must meet strict competency requirements and are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Whilst there are plenty of ways to engage the services of a reputable IFA, Property Assistant has worked with many individuals and organisations who offer a local service.

ifa definition financial adviser

Independent Financial Adviser: Image via Flickr.

Inheritance Tax

More commonly known as ‘Death Duties’, inheritance tax is a levy paid to the government on your estate once you die. If you have dependents, it is worthwhile discussing the impact of these taxes with an IFA to ensure that you have your financial affairs in good order.

As of April 2018, the rate is 40% owed on all capital owned above the value of £325,000 (unless you leave a minimum of 10% to charity in which case this reduces to 36%).

Interest Only Mortgages

As the name suggests, this is a mortgage where the repayments taken by your lender cover only the interest of the loan you have taken out. At the end of the term of your mortgage, the original value of the loan will be due in full.

This type of mortgage is usually taken out in conjunction with another investment vehicle that is set up to cover the cost of loan at the end of the mortgage term. This can be something like a personal pension, endowment policy or ISA.

Leasehold

A leasehold is the ownership of a property by lease and grants the right to use the land and property to which this relates for a fixed period of time. Ownership is usually subject to payments of ground rent to the owner of the freehold.

Leasehold properties can be for a short term period such as 40 years but are more often long term such as 90+ years.

Maintenance Charge

Used when referring to leased properties, this is a charge levied by the landlord that covers the maintenance costs associated with the property and the communal areas. These are usually agreed in advance and can include items like cleaning, gardening and general repairs to keep the property in good condition.

Peppercorn Rent

A type of ground rent which is nominal in value. The exchange of money is usually so ‘token’ so as to constitute a legal lease, that no money actually changes hands

definition peppercorn rent

Peppercorn Rent. Image via PxHere.

Portable Mortgage

A type of mortgage that is linked to a borrower and not a property. In these situations, a buyer can move home without having to switch mortgage lender or paying any early repayment charges.

Probate

The process of establishing the validity of a will. Probate properties involve the executor of the deceased’s estate and require additional court processes before contracts can be exchanged or completed.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

A tax due to the government, paid by the buyer, based on the value paid for a property. As of April 2018, the stamp duty rates are 0% on all properties up to the value of £125,000, 2% on properties valued between £125,001 and £250,000, 5% on homes worth £250,001 to £925,000 and 10% up to £1.5 million.

stamp duty definition

Stamp Duty & Land Tax. Image via Blue Diamond Gallery.

Survey

A type of report that is conducted on a property. This can include, but is not limited to, a valuation survey, a condition survey or a structural survey. You can find out more about the definitions of each type of survey in our full Property Jargon Buster guide.

Here at Property Assistant, we think a property jargon buster is an essential way to help communicate with our customers and communication is key to a good relationship. If you would like to know more about the way we do business then you can contact us on 0118 912 2370.

Don’t forget, you can also download our free Home Buyers Guide as well as find other useful information on our blog.

 

Featured image via Pixabay.

 

, ,

Cost of Living: Wokingham Compared

Often ranked as one of the best places to live in the UK, Wokingham is a popular commuter town for people working in cities like London, Winchester and Oxford or commercial towns like Reading, Bracknell and Basingstoke.

You can find a more comprehensive guide about why Wokingham is so popular in either our Thames Valley Area Guide or Wokingham: The Happiest Place to Live. But, in this guide, we wanted to look at the cost of living in this popular market town.

Cost of Living: Wokingham vs London

No-one will be surprised that the cost of living in Wokingham is lower when compared to the nation’s capital. London has a reputation for being an expensive place to live and, in January 2018, was ranked the highest cost for property rents in Europe for the third year running. But, how does the overall cost of living in Wokingham compare to the capital?

cost of living wokingham

A Wokingham is a popular commuter town for people working in London. Image via Wikimedia.

According to the global crowd-sourcing database, Numbeo, you would need around £3,388 in Wokingham to maintain the same standard of living that you can achieve on average in the capital. This is based on a figure of £4,400 per month for living and renting in London.

This is made up of the following differences in the following important indices:

  • Consumer prices (excluding rent) are 13.87% lower.
  • Consumer prices (including rent) are 24.71% lower.
  • Rent prices are 38.68% lower.
  • Restaurant prices are 4.04% lower.
  • Grocery prices are 16.15% lower.
  • Local purchasing power is 57.67% higher.

Restaurants (Wokingham vs London)

There is little difference in the cost of restaurant prices between London and Wokingham with the main difference being in the cost of alcohol.

  London Wokingham Difference
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant  £    15.00  £    15.00      0.00 %
Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course  £    50.00  £    47.50      -5.00 %
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)  £       5.50  £       5.00      -9.09 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught)  £       4.50  £       3.80      -15.56 %
Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)  £       4.50  £       3.60      -20.00 %
Cappuccino (regular)  £       2.68  £       2.60      -3.14 %
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle)  £       1.22  £       1.21      -1.24 %
Water (0.33 litre bottle)  £       0.95  £       0.98      +3.12 %

 

Markets (Wokingham vs London)

The cost of groceries in Wokingham are all cheaper than in London with the only exception being rice and water from a standardised list of items used to compare shopping costs.

  London Wokingham Difference
Milk (regular), (1 litre)  £       0.92  £ 0.85      -7.37 %
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)  £       1.07  £ 0.90      -15.42 %
Rice (white), (1kg)  £       1.46  £ 1.50      +2.72 %
Eggs (regular) (12)  £       2.15  £ 1.90      -11.80 %
Local Cheese (1kg)  £       5.77  £ 4.70      -18.53 %
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg)  £       6.69  £ 5.25      -21.48 %
Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)  £       8.61  £ 7.00      -18.66 %
Apples (1kg)  £       2.03  £ 1.98      -2.45 %
Banana (1kg)  £       1.06  £ 0.89      -16.15 %
Oranges (1kg)  £       1.74  £ 1.20      -31.01 %
Tomato (1kg)  £       2.36  £ 2.20      -6.87 %
Potato (1kg)  £       1.36  £ 1.00      -26.38 %
Onion (1kg)  £       1.17  £ 1.00      -14.36 %
Lettuce (1 head)  £       0.81  £ 0.59      -26.10 %
Water (1.5 litre bottle)  £       1.02  £ 1.05      +2.97 %
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)  £       8.00  £ 7.00      -12.50 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre bottle)  £       1.63  £ 0.88      -46.37 %
Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)  £       2.07  £ 1.23      -40.35 %
Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro)  £    10.00  £ 8.50      -15.00 %
wokingham cost of living

The average cost of a weekly shop is lower in Wokingham than in London. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Transportation (Wokingham vs London)

Surprisingly, whilst the overall costs of transportation in Wokingham are lower, it is local transport which is more expensive. This will be no surprise to regular bus and train users and just validates the good value that Transport for London offers its users.

  London Wokingham Difference
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)  £           2.50  £           4.50      +80.00 %
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)  £      132.00  £         65.00      -50.76 %
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)  £           3.45  £           3.90      +13.04 %
Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)  £           3.00  £           1.50      -50.00 %
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)  £         30.00  £         10.00      -66.67 %
Gasoline (1 litre)  £           1.21  £           1.14      -5.79 %
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 (Or Equivalent New Car)  £20,000.00  £ 18,000.00      -10.00 %
Toyota Corolla 1.6l (Or Equivalent New Car)  £20,336.93  £ 23,000.00      +13.09 %

 

Utilities (Wokingham vs London)

The cost of gas, electricity and water were all higher in Wokingham than in London though internet and mobile charges are lower.

  London Wokingham Difference
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment  £  135.61  £155.25      +14.48 %
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)  £       0.11  £     0.10      -7.53 %
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)  £     28.89  £   27.50      -4.81 %

 

Sports & Leisure (Wokingham vs London)

Reflecting the higher rental and business rates, entertainment and leisure facilities in London are much higher than in Wokingham.

  London Wokingham Difference
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult  £    48.08  £   30.00      -37.61 %
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend)  £     11.33  £   10.00      -11.76 %
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat  £     12.00  £   10.00      -16.67 %

 

Childcare (Wokingham vs London)

Comparing the cost for childcare, Wokingham is also significantly cheaper than the capital.

  London Wokingham Difference
Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child  £   1,125.75  £    766.67      -31.90 %
International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child  £15,852.94  £6,000.00      -62.15 %
childcare costs wokingham

Childcare costs are lower in Wokingham than in London. Image via Flickr.

Rent (Wokingham vs London)

Though property rental prices in Wokingham are higher than the national average, compared to London, they are much lower.

  London Wokingham Difference
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre  £         1,628.35  £1,250.00      -23.23 %
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre  £         1,181.22  £    850.00      -28.04 %
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre  £        2,984.96  £1,400.00      -53.10 %
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre  £         1,975.19  £1,275.00      -35.45 %

 

Property Prices (Wokingham vs London)

The overall average price of a house in London was £619,181 compared to £473,331 in Wokingham; that’s a difference of 23.56%.

Salaries & Financing (Wokingham vs London)

Though the average salary is lower than in London, the cost of a mortgage is cheaper.

  London Wokingham Difference
Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax) £2,358.74 £2,800.00      +18.71 %
Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate 3.15 2.9      -7.69 %

 

Cost of Living: Wokingham vs Reading

Compared to Reading, Wokingham is, surprisingly for some, cheaper when it comes to achieving the same standard of living. In fact, you would need £3,511.32 to maintain the same lifestyle in Reading as you would in Wokingham.

This is broken down as follows:

  • Consumer Prices in Reading are 10.67% higher than in Wokingham
  • Consumer Prices Including Rent in Reading are 3.27% higher than in Wokingham
  • Rent Prices in Reading are 10.11% lower than in Wokingham
  • Restaurant Prices in Reading are 3.12% higher than in Wokingham
  • Groceries Prices in Reading are 24.51% higher than in Wokingham
  • Local Purchasing Power in Reading is 17.53% lower than in Wokingham
reading vs wokingham compared

Reading is more expensive to live than Wokingham. Image via Flickr.

Cost of Living: Wokingham vs UK National Average

Compared to the rest of the UK, the cost of living in Wokingham is higher with costs in each of the following key areas breaking down as follows:

Restaurants

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant  £            12.00  £           15.00 20.00%
Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course  £           45.00  £           47.50 5.26%
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)  £              5.00  £             5.00 0.00%
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught)  £              3.50  £             3.80 7.89%
Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)  £              3.50  £             3.60 2.78%
Cappuccino (regular)  £              2.55  £             2.60 1.92%
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle)  £               1.17  £             1.21 3.31%
Water (0.33 litre bottle)  £             0.88  £             0.98 10.20%

 

Markets

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
Milk (regular), (1 liter)  £              0.89  £             0.85 -4.71%
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)  £              0.95  £             0.90 -5.56%
Rice (white), (1kg)  £               1.21  £             1.50 19.33%
Eggs (regular) (12)  £              1.86  £             1.90 2.11%
Local Cheese (1kg)  £              5.33  £             4.70 -13.40%
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg)  £              5.82  £             5.25 -10.86%
Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)  £              7.66  £             7.00 -9.43%
Apples (1kg)  £              1.82  £             1.98 8.08%
Banana (1kg)  £              1.00  £             0.89 -12.36%
Oranges (1kg)  £               1.64  £             1.20 -36.67%
Tomato (1kg)  £              1.80  £             2.20 18.18%
Potato (1kg)  £               1.17  £             1.00 -17.00%
Onion (1kg)  £              0.93  £             1.00 7.00%
Lettuce (1 head)  £              0.73  £             0.59 -23.73%
Water (1.5 liter bottle)  £              1.00  £             1.05 4.76%
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)  £              7.00  £             7.00 0.00%
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)  £               1.56  £             0.88 -77.27%
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)  £               1.71  £             1.23 -39.02%
Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro)  £               9.30  £             8.50 -9.41%

 

Transportation

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)  £               2.40  £             4.50 46.67%
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)  £             60.00  £           65.00 7.69%
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)  £               3.00  £             3.90 23.08%
Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)  £               1.55  £             1.50 -3.33%
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)  £             20.00  £           10.00 -100.00%
Gasoline (1 liter)  £               1.17  £             1.14 -2.63%
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)  £     18,000.00  £   18,000.00 0.00%
Toyota Corolla 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car)  £     18,107.19  £   23,000.00 21.27%
local transport wokingham

Overall, transport costs in Wokingham are higher than the UK national average. Image via Wikimedia.

Utilities

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment  £           140.47  £         155.25 9.52%
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)  £               0.14  £             0.10 -40.00%
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)  £             26.05  £           27.50 5.27%

 

Sports & Leisure

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult  £             31.32  £           30.00 -4.40%
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend)  £               9.66  £           10.00 3.40%
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat  £             10.00  £           10.00 0.00%

 

Childcare

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child  £           846.37  £         766.67 -10.40%
International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child  £     12,863.14  £     6,000.00 -114.39%

 

Rent

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre  £           752.57  £     1,250.00 39.79%
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre  £           601.66  £         850.00 29.22%
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre  £       1,204.02  £     1,400.00 14.00%
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre  £           928.29  £     1,275.00 27.19%

 

Property Prices

The average UK house price is currently £211,625 compared to £473,311 which makes house prices in Wokingham a staggering 124% higher.

Salaries & Financing

 UK National  Wokingham  Difference
Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax)  £       1,795.04  £     2,800.00 35.89%
Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate  £               3.23  £             2.90 -11.38%

 

Property Assistant Wokingham are local estate agents working in the Keller Williams Network. We offer a refreshing change from many people’s perception of property agents. A family run business with a focus on offering a professional but personable service, we pride ourselves on telling our clients what they need to know, not what they want to hear.

If you are considering a move, in or around the Thames Valley area, then we’d love to hear from you; renting, buying, selling or downsizing, we call help you find your perfect home today.

Featured image via Geograph.