Spring cleaning Notting Hill homes

Whether you are preparing your property for sale or rent, or simply giving the place a really good spring clean, you’ll be amazed what you can achieve with the application of a little elbow grease and some basic household products. It’s the fastest form of home makeover and, at the same time, you can save yourself thousands of pounds worth of material and labour costs when compared to redecorating or replacing items.
Below are some brilliant and sometimes unexpected ideas on how to handle some of those household chores that normally give us so much heartache. I’m not one of life’s great cleaners, but even I found the videos inspiring!

1) Wash front door and porch:
The front door is the first thing any visitor will see, so if it looks clean and fresh, it will set the tone for the rest of the house.

Expert tips -

Give your front door and porch area a wash with soap and water and watch the paintwork come back to life. Once you’ve done that, polish up your knobs and knockers, Brasso for brass and, surprisingly, tin foil and flat Coke for chrome (see video link below), which is an old automotive trick and works a treat.
Cleaning brass door furniture:
Cleaning chrome door furniture:

2) Cleaning windows and mirrors:
Dirty windows let in less light and are very noticeable, so if they sparkle, the whole house looks brighter and cleaner.

Expert tips -

There’s not much mystery to cleaning windows, but here’s a fantastic tip - if it’s a sunny day, put on some sunglasses while you clean and then you’ll be able to see the streaks. And if you rub the window with old newspapers afterwards, hopefully there won’t be any streaks to worry about. Mirrors can be cleaned with a mixture of water and vinegar, but the best tip we found was how to stop your bathroom mirror from steaming up. It’s not strictly a cleaning job, but it is so clever, we just had to include it –just take a look at the video
Steam free mirrors

3) Kitchens:
Kitchens are home to a horrifying array of dirt collecting apparatus, but help is at hand. Just check out some of these videos.
Hobs: Get rid of burn marks and stains with just ammonia and a plastic bag.
Metal sinks: Shine your stainless steel sink with a mixture of lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and water and olive oil!
Ovens: A simple and professional approach to oven cleaning using ordinary household products.

4) Bathrooms:
Like kitchens, bathrooms have a hard life and can soon look tired and dirty. The biggest problems are limescale and mildew, but there are lots of things you can do before you need to start replacing your old fittings and fixtures.
Taps and sinks: The power of white wine vinegar is astonishing, especially when it comes to limescale.
Shower heads: Good old white vinegar to the rescue, once again.
Toilets with limescale stains: Yet another use for that magic vinegar.
Plastic baths and showers: Gel Gloss
Tile grout: Dirty grout looks really unsightly, but there are lots of simple things you can do to clean it up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj_USSnHQKM
Bathroom silicone sealant: Mouldy silicone looks terrible and is notoriously difficult to clean, but there is a solution – the brilliantly named Domestos Grot Buster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7nS5_21Z-4

5) Floors:
Dirty carpets, dented wooden floors and grubby old tiles – how to bring them back to life.
Carpets: Make a really effective all-purpose cleaning solution from basic household items.
Tiles: A simple, step-by-step guide to reviving old floor tiles, especially any original Victorian ones.
Wood floors: A very clever trick to remove small dents in wooden flooring.

*Before you try any of these methods, make sure they are suitable for the materials you are going to use them on and, if in doubt, always test it out on a small patch first.

So, if you’re thinking of selling a property in one of our areas of operation (see below) and you want to make your place look tip-top – you know what to do!

Eco Home Innovations

Our increasing concerns over climate change has meant there is more research than ever being done on ways we can reduce our energy usage, especially in our homes. We all know about solar panels, heat-pumps and wind turbines, but what else is there out there? We take a look at some of the latest innovations coming our way.



This is a smart, app controlled hot water tank that only heats what you need, making it both quicker and more efficient than a conventional hot water tank. It can be used with most existing systems, including gas, electric or solar. The manufacturers claim it delivers hot water up to 5x faster and will save you 5%-20% on your hot water bills. As an added bonus, it will also tell you if there’s enough hot water left for a shower!




Thermocill is an innovative new product that helps reduce heat loss through windows. It replaces any existing window sills that are located above radiators and directs the warm air towards the glazing.  This reduces both the amount of cold air coming into your house and the amount of warm air leaking out. It’s claimed you’ll use 14% less energy to heat a up a room and it will happen 19% faster. It should also substantially reduce condensation.




If you’ve got one of the  estimated 8 million homes in the UK that have suspended wooden floors, then you could seriously improve your house’s thermal performance by using a Q-bot. A Q-bot is a robot that can be dropped under the floor where it will spray insulation onto the underside of the floor. Not only will it reduce your heating bill by up to 16%, it will also cut down on those unpleasant draughts.



Magnetocaloric Refrigerators

Coming soon, this revolution in fridge technology uses magnets rather than the standard gas compression for cooling and will reduce your fridge’s energy consumption by over 25%. It also does away with fluorinated gas, which is used in most conventional cooling systems and is a powerful greenhouse gas. The same technology could be used for air conditioning, which consumes huge amounts of energy – approximately 10% of all global electricity.


Pee Power

Believe it or not, you can generate power from urine. It’s not some future concept, it’s available now and is already being used at Glastonbury. Here’s how it works - urine is passed through a series of Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs). The microbes then feed on it, releasing electrons and generating electricity. No, I don’t understand it either, but before long, it might be coming to a toilet near you.



Generating electricity from thin air

 Although this seems an even more unlikely source of electricity than urine, it’s generating a great deal of excitement. Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air. The technology, they say, could have significant implications for the future of renewable energy. Unlike solar power, Air-gen does not need either sunlight or wind and can even work indoors. Watch this space.




For those who consider solar panels unsightly, there’s now a far less visually intrusive option - Thermoslate. Thermoslate uses the properties of natural slate to help convert the sun’s energy into hot water. The outer layer of the solar panels is made of natural slate, so it will blend perfectly with many of the UK’s traditional buildings.



Battery technology

One of the main disadvantages of both wind and solar power is the unreliability of supply and the lack of decent storage solutions. Currently, most systems use lithium batteries, but their ability to store energy over prolonged periods is limited. There are, however, lots of new battery types being developed that could provide uninterrupted power from the wind and the sun.


Bladeless wind turbines

Vortex Bladeless may look uncomfortably phallic, but they are at the forefront of harnessing the power of the wind. Instead of using spinning blades to generate electricity, they vibrate. It means they are more-or-less silent, pose no threat to birds and wildlife and take up considerably less space. They may, however generate some smirks from your neighbours, as their odd shape has already led to them being dubbed ‘skybrators’.


Are You Satisfied?

We may have the reputation of being a nation of grumblers, but what do we really think of our homes and the places where we live? Do we love them or hate them? And do we all think the same, from the young to the old? The rich to the poor?

Thankfully, those busy little bureaucrats down at the ONS (Office of National Statistics) have done a survey that tells us exactly what we think! And it makes for some interesting reading. So, let’s start with the areas in which we live. Do we really like them or are we just living there because it’s the best compromise we can afford? Surprisingly, it seems we may not be such a bunch of grumblers, after all, because 88% of us are at least reasonably satisfied with the location of our homes.

However, the biggest variation in overall contentedness is between the age groups. The least happy are those under 24 – although 82.9% are quite satisfied, just 46.7% are very satisfied. On the other hand 70.4% of those over 75 are likely to be very satisfied and a whopping 91.8% are at least fairly satisfied. It doesn’t make a lot of difference what sex we are, nor our income or ethnicity, which is good to know, because we do have a tendency to believe the lives of those richer than us are far better than our own. When it comes to dissatisfaction, however, money does count. 9.9% of those on the lowest incomes (£10,000 p.a. or less) are dissatisfied with their area compared to 3.8% for those earning over £50,000p.a. Ethnicity also appears to have an effect, but not a huge one. The average dissatisfaction levels for Caucasians are 6.5%, whereas the dissatisfaction rates for other ethnic groups are just in double figures.

And then there’s the question of whether the area we live in has got better or worse since we moved there? This time the roles are reversed, with the optimistic nature of the young shining through, because they have the highest percentage of people believing the area has improved (15.9%) and the lowest who thought the area had deteriorated (18.2%).

This compares to 24.6% of over 75 year olds who think the area is going down the plug hole and just 10.4% who believe it’s doing the opposite. The one thing most of us agree on is that it has stayed the same (+/- 65%) - and that’s across the board.

Then there’s our houses themselves. Surely we all want something a bit bigger, grander or maybe even just different? Well, I can tell you that, across all the age and ethnic groups, 89% of us are either satisfied or very satisfied with our accommodation. Now that doesn’t ring true when it comes to my household, because the size and location of the house is a regular topic of conversation. And, every time we get together with another family, they seem to be saying the same thing. However, that may be because we are relatively young and have children. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be pining for a new home. 75.3% of over 74 year olds are very satisfied, which is almost twice as many under 24 year olds (41.3%). But, it’s those households with children that are the least happy, because space is always at a premium - 8.2% are dissatisfied with their accommodation and 15.4% of single parents.

When the ONS combined our satisfaction levels for both housing and location, the average figure was 80.5%. Interestingly that figure has hardly changed in over 20 years, so the idea that our areas are going downhill may not be entirely accurate.

One thing’s for sure, though, Covid-19 has meant many homeowners are now looking for some more space. So, if you’d like a new home somewhere in Notting Hill all you need to do is give us a call.

Stamp duty to be extended

Stamp duty to be extended – more reasons to put your property on the market with Homesite

About 300,000 property purchases in England could benefit from a three-month extension in the stamp duty holiday, it has been estimated, as reports suggest the chancellor could be set to prolong the tax break in next week’s budget.

The tax saving - which cuts the bill entirely on properties costing between £125,000 and £500,000 and reduces it on homes costing more than that - was announced last summer and is due to end on 31 March.
However, Rishi Sunak is understood to have decided to extend it for three months in line with other measures to support the economy.

It is not clear if the extension would apply to all purchases, or would be on a tapered basis and apply just to those agreed before an earlier day, as lobbied for by some in the mortgage industry.

The rush to take advantage of the break, which amounts to a tax saving of £15,000, combined with lockdown restrictions across the country has led to delays and backlogs in the homebuying process, and calls for the deadline to be moved.
The property listing website Rightmove has estimated that if it is not changed, about 100,000 buyers who agreed a purchase in 2020 will have to pay the tax, which will add up to £15,000 to their costs.
It said that figure combined with sales that could be completed before a June deadline, could mean an additional 300,000 transactions escaped the tax, at a cost of £1.75bn to the Treasury.
In recent months the tax break seems to have led to a boom in transactions and prices, with official figures showing prices climbed by 8.5% in 2020.

The credit referencing agency Experian said there were 12% more applications in February than in the same period last year, even though the chance of completing before the March deadline is low.
Lisa Fretwell, Experian’s managing director of data services, said: “Extending the deadline will help ensure these people get their deals over the line and provide a welcome boost for the mortgage market.”
However some in the industry have said that the chancellor will just delay the inevitable “cliff edge” if he simply extends the holiday, and that a new hard deadline would mean buyers continuing to attempt to complete ate all costs.
Hedley Adcock, a director of property law firm Adcocks Solicitors, said buyers were “taking high-risk strategies to speed up the process”, such as skipping property searches and valuations.
“If an extension is announced next week, it is essential that a tapering-off period is also granted, such as a paperwork deadline,” he said.
“In other words, buyers who have either exchanged contracts but not completed, or those who can demonstrate they have started a transaction before the deadline and have incurred solicitor costs, for example.”
He added: “Our worry is that if the deadline is simply extended, we can expect to see buyers continue to take unnecessary risks to aid the moving process in a few months’ time.”

What will happen to house prices in 2021

It’s hard to believe now, but this time last year, all the talk was about how resilient the housing market had been in the face of Brexit uncertainty. And, with Boris Johnson’s election and his unexpected success in renegotiating terms with the EU, it all ended with a rising sense of optimism. Commentators were even promising ‘a far brighter, smoother year in 2020’. Little did they know.

By January, the market was beginning to feel the effects of the much anticipated ‘Boris Bounce’. Rightmove reported asking prices had risen by 2.3%, their biggest ever rise for the month. In February, asking prices rose again, this time by 0.8% and, according to Rightmove’s Miles Shipside:

“Owners coming to market this spring face their best selling prospects for several years.”

Even London’s market, which had been lagging behind the rest of the country, was showing signs of improvement. In February, prices in inner London rose by 3.5% and by 3.1% annually.

And then in March we had lockdown and house sales fell off a cliff. In an effort to prevent the market from crashing, the government slashed the base rate to 0.1% and introduced mortgage holidays for cash-strapped homeowners. Even so, many were predicting house prices could fall by as much as 15%.

Unable to buy or sell, the housing market was forced to tread water until May, when it unexpectedly reopened. After months of being confined to our homes, many were desperate for some extra space, especially those living in flats. With the weather improving, we also wanted gardens and easy access to open spaces.

All that pent-up demand meant, just two days after the reopening, there were 5.2 million visits to Rightmove’s property portal. It was a different story for first-time buyers, though. The crisis had made lenders wary of exposing themselves to those with smaller deposits and a huge number of high loan-to-value mortgages were withdrawn from the market. As a result, demand was far higher for houses than for starter flats, especially for those in less urban areas, as we sought refuge in the country.

In July the Stamp Duty holiday was announced and things really took off. Buyer inquiries rose by an astonishing 75% compared to July 2019. Activity didn’t even quieten down for Christmas. With delays in many parts of the sales process, buyers and sellers rushed to get deals tied up before the Stamp Duty holiday ends on 31st March 2021. In the midst of it all, our Brexit deal was finally signed off, although it no longer grabbed the headlines like it once did. By the time the year ended, prices were up by an impressive 7.3% (Nationwide).

So, what about 2021? After 2020, only the very brave would claim any real certainty, but the general consensus is that, despite the latest lockdown, the rush to beat the Stamp Duty will keep agents busy until the end of March. New sales activity, however, may be reduced from February, as deals agreed beyond January would be very unlikely to make the cut. As has happened with previous changes to Stamp Duty, there is then likely to be a significant lull.

What comes next is not yet clear but, by late spring, large numbers of people will have been vaccinated, which should bring about a feel-good factor. If we then see a rapid economic recovery then house prices will rise with it. If, on the other hand, the economy fails to recover quickly enough or unemployment rises more than expected, prices could come down. The uncertainty means experts’ predictions for 2021 are even more wide-ranging than usual, varying from -5% to +4%. Even if the most pessimistic of predictions came true (-5%), it would still not wipe off the spectacular and unexpected gains made in 2020.

2020: The facts

Nationwide: Dec 19 to Dec 20: National £230,920 +7.3%. London £486,562 +6.2%
Halifax: Dec 19 to Dec 20: National £253,374 +6.0%.
Land registry: Oct 19 to Oct 20: National £245,443 +5.4%. London £490,936 +3.9%
Hometrack: Nov 19 to Nov 20: Top 20 cities £259,900 +3.5%. London £485,100 +2.8%
Rightmove: Dec 19 to Dec 20: National £319,945 +6.6%. London £620,986 +3.5% (asking prices).

The predictions:

Please note – where possible, comparative figures for 2020 are from the commentator’s own indices.

Nationwide’s indices recorded growth of 7.3% in 2020. Last year, they predicted prices would remain flat. This time around, they haven’t given a precise figure but say:

”The outlook remains highly uncertain. Much will depend on how the pandemic and the measures to contain it evolve as well as the efficacy of policy measures implemented to limit the damage to the wider economy.”

Halifax didn’t give an exact figure for 2020 but expected prices and transaction volumes to rise. In the event, they did, but – but by an unexpectedly high margin – 6%. This year, with unemployment likely to be on the increase, they expect prices to fall between 2% to 5%

They were one of the few to get things just about spot on with their prediction of +3% against a final figure of 2.8%. This year, they expect house price growth to slow to +1%

Rightmove are another who underestimated growth in 2020. Their 2% prediction was some way below the 3.5% reality. They are one of the more optimistic about 2021, forecasting growth of 4%, with housing remaining a priority on people’s life agendas.

RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)
RICS predicted prices would rise by 2% in 2020, which was some way short of the average 6%-7% reported by the larger lenders. They are yet to make a prediction for 2021.

ARLA Propertymark (National Association of Estate Agents)
Last year, more than a quarter of member agents (28 %) were expecting house prices to fall against 56% who expect them to remain the same. Only 25% got it right, expecting prices to rise. They have yet to make their predictions for 2021

A selection of other predictions
CEBR expects house prices to fall by 3% in 2021
EYITEM expects a fall of 5%
Capital Economics is also predicting a fall of 5%

What will happen to the rental market in 2021?

At the start of 2020, supplies of rental property were plunging and rents were rising. In January, Homelet’s Rental Index showed average rents were up by 2.3% and by 4.4% in London. Despite a raft of upcoming tax and legislative changes, landlords’ confidence remained surprisingly high - 25% were expecting rents to increase, and 32% were expecting property prices to rise (source: Paragon Mortgages). Then, just as with the sales market, March came and everything ground to a halt. Afraid of mass evictions and tenant hardship, the government allowed tenants to take a three month rental holiday and banned evictions.

Pent up demand ensured there was plenty of activity when the market re-opened in May, although COVID restrictions made viewings more complicated than previously. Just like the sales market, demand for inner city properties was markedly lower than for other areas, with tenants searching for more open spaces, resulting in a market that was operating at two different speeds.

As we moved into summer, landlords, unable to evict tenants, were becoming increasingly concerned about tenants’ arrears, although rents continued to rise - up by 2.1% between July and August. In the autumn, there was a brief window of opportunity for landlords to evict problem tenants, but with such large backlogs, only the most serious cases were heard. The extension of the furlough scheme until April 2021 did offer some comfort, providing vital financial support for both companies and their employees.

By the time the year ended, rents had risen by 2.7% across the country but had fallen by 4.5% in London. The average rent (excluding London) is now £838 and £1,556 in the capital (source: Homelet).

Commenting on the outlook for 2021, Andy Halstead, chief executive at HomeLet & Let Alliance, said:

“Whilst overarching optimism remains strong for 2021, with vaccines being rolled out for COVID, we can still expect a year that will be disrupted by the impact of the virus. With the new national lockdown and the prospect of additional restrictions to help curb the impact of the virus and new variants, we can expect the demand for certain property types and locations to grow, pushing rents up further.”

Our eventual return to commuting may also lead to increased demand for properties in city centres, especially if, as expected, the cost of commuting rises substantially as transport companies try to make up for their substantial losses.

As ever, there are some legislative changes to watch out for this year - electrical safety tests will be required for all existing tenanted properties by April 1st, although, the government is being lobbied to extend the deadline for another 12 months. The eviction ban has just been extended for another 6 weeks and may well be extended again. And, finally, the Right to Rent checks on EU citizens will change from 30th June 2021 to take into account the new Points Based Immigration System.


Fittings & Fixtures

Fittings and fixtures

What should stay and what should go

Over the years there have been an awful lot of horror stories about people moving into a new house or flat, only to find it stripped bare, with even the light switches removed. Don’t panic, these are extreme examples, but whether you are buying or selling a property you need to be very clear about what is staying and what is going. Arguments over fixtures and fittings can be costly and, in certain circumstances, can adversely affect the sale of a property. Your solicitor should be able to steer you through the process, but to avoid the pitfalls, you need at least a basic understanding of how it works.

The logical starting point is the definition of fixtures and fittings. Fixtures – these are things that are fixed or bolted down, such as a kitchen unit, a fitted wardrobe or a plug socket. Fittings – these are things that can be carried away, such as a hanging mirror, rugs and curtains. The problem is that there are also a lot of things that fall into the grey area between. What about shelves that are not fixed? A seller may wish to take them, but a buyer may assume they are staying. A freestanding cooker is by definition, a fitting, not a fixture. Sheds are another common problem area - if they don't have foundations, they are not considered to be fixtures. Hanging lights are technically fixtures, although it is normal practice to replace them with hanging bulb fittings during the course of a house sale.

The general rule of thumb is that if there is no agreement, fixtures remain and fittings are removed. However, almost all vendors will provide a fairly comprehensive inventory of what is staying and what is going. You can, in theory, put what you want on the list. The vendor has the right to take any fitting not specified in the inventory, which can sometimes come as a surprise to the buyer. Conversely, if you take something with you that was included in the sale or, for that matter, if you leave anything behind that is not, in extreme circumstances you can be taken to the Small Claims Court.

Most problems occur when a buyer fails to check the list properly, distracted by other, more pressing issues. If something untoward does happen during the moving process, before you let the matter go to court, you should be aware that the cost of it will almost certainly be more than replacing, say, a set of shelves or some door handles.

The best way of dealing with the issue of fittings and fixtures is to do some preparation. Before you sell, go through each room carefully and make a note of all the things that you are taking with you, especially if they are fixed elements. Then hand the over list to your solicitor. If you are buying - check the house to see if there are any specific items that you would like to have included in the sale. If they’re not listed on the inventory, you may want to offer to purchase them. It is very important that this part of the process is handled with tact. What you may consider to be a piece of old tat may be a prized family possession and it is not uncommon for one or other party to take offence during the process. Another point to note is that most vendors consider anything under 12 months old to be priced almost as new, regardless of its true value.

For anyone buying a rental property, you could save yourself quite a lot of money if you buy some of the existing fittings. And, don’t forget to check to if anything you’re taking with you will actually fit in in your new place. If your Welsh dresser is higher than your new kitchen ceiling, it's the perfect opportunity to offer it to your buyer. Again, don’t be offended if they don’t want it – everyone has different ideas and taste.

Finally, always keep in mind you are selling a house, not a wardrobe or some flowerpots from the garden. Don’t let negotiations over minor issues sour the whole process.

The information is for general guidance purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you need legal advice please contact an appropriate professional.

Renewable energy for your home in Notting Hill

Renewable energy for your home in Notting Hill
With gas boilers increasingly in the crosshairs in our fight to reduce carbon emissions,  we thought it might be a good time to take a look at some more eco-friendly options for heating and powering our homes.

There are five main categories of renewable energy sources and these are wind turbines, solar power, micro-hydro power, ground source heat pumps and biomass fuels. Each one has a different set of requirements and the location or orientation of your property has a serious bearing on which of them are suitable for you.

We’ll start with solar power and the first thing to note is that there are actually two different types of solar power systems. Some generate electricity and some just heat water. In basic terms, both devices use the power of the sun to generate either heat or electricity. The latest generation of panels don’t need constant sunshine in order for them to work but, ideally, you need a south facing roof. It is sometimes possible with an east of west facing one, but not if it’s north facing. In England, most solar power systems don't need planning permission, but your roof will need to be able to support the weight of the panels. Additionally, a water tank is required for the water system and a battery is recommended in order to store excess power from the electricity generating systems.

Installing a solar hot water system in your home will cost between £4,000-£5,000, depending on the size of the property and the energy requirements. They do not tend to produce dramatic savings, but you can expect to reduce your annual bill by around £60 per year compared to a gas system (Energy Saving Trust - https://energysavingtrust.org.uk).

The good news is the price of electricity generating (photovoltaic) solar panels has fallen dramatically in recent years – down 82% since 2010. The cost of installing the average 3.5kW system is now around £4,800 and will reduce your household’s carbon emissions by over a tonne a year. It will save you money, too. If you’re home all day you and are selling any excess capacity back to the grid, you could save around £300/year, or £220 for nine to fivers. At those levels, it will take between 16 and 23 years to recoup the installation cost.

Wind power also comes in two different forms, building-mounted or, the more powerful, mast mounted turbines. Clearly, one of the key issues is whether you have enough wind to power it. You can do this by going to http://www.renew-reuse-recycle.com/noabl.pl?n=503 and entering your postcode. Turbines work much better in more exposed areas with consistent wind. You will almost certainly need planning permission and it is recommended that you also store excess electricity from a windy day in a battery linked to the system. Mast mounted versions are more expensive and require considerably more space. For a 6kW pole, the average installation cost is between £23,000- £34,000. It would typically generate savings of about £250/year and cut carbon emissions by 2.5 tonnes. In addition, you could  earn up to £440 per year in Smart Export Gurantee payments (https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/smart-export-guarantee/).

Selling your home

As we head towards the colder months, the housing market tends to quieten down a little. However, this year with the stamp duty holiday, there is still plenty of zip left in it. If you're thinking of putting your property on the market, though, there are a few things you need to bear in mind when you are preparing it for sale, especially in relation to covid.

Keeping everyone covid safe has, and will continue to be, a priority for Homesite. That means there is an emphasis on virtual viewings, at least initially, and a need to ensure social distancing is maintained at all times. For physical viewings, there are some simple rules to follow. As they cannot involve more than one household (excluding our agent), vendors should vacate the property while they take place. There is a structured booking process, so you will have plenty of notice and you won’t need to be out for long, as viewings are limited to 15 minutes. Beforehand, we will also ask you (and the viewer) the following questions:

Has anyone in your household had COVID-19?

Has anyone in your household displayed COVID-19 symptoms or not yet completed a required period of household self-isolation?
Is anyone in your household in the high-risk category?

It is recommended that, just before the viewing commences, vendors should open all internal doors and clean any likely touch points, such as door handles, using standard household cleaning products. For your protection, viewers and our agents will wear facemasks and try to minimise their contact with any surfaces.

But don’t forget, it’s not all about Covid. After all, the whole point of the exercise is to sell your property (and get the best price), and that means also making sure it looks as good as it can. At this time of year, the wind and rain can take a heavy toll on your paintwork and windows, leaving them looking tired and grubby. And, if you have any kind of outside spaces, there will be dead plants and leaves everywhere. Sweep away those leaves, cut back any dead plants and give your external doors, windows and paintwork a really good scrub with soap and warm water. If you have one, mow the lawn, too. As long as you set the mower a little higher than normal (grass should be about 2 inches long). It won’t do it any harm whatsoever and it’s amazing what a difference it makes.

With less natural light, it’s also worth paying careful attention to your home’s lighting. And that starts on the outside. A warm and welcoming porch light will set the right tone, right from the start. You want all the lights turned on inside, too, because the last thing you want is for your home to look gloomy. Although be careful, a single source of light can make a room look like a prison cell and will do more harm than good. To mimic natural daylight conditions you need multiple, low level light sources. If necessary, go and buy some extra free-standing or table lights.

The house’s temperature is another important consideration - warm and snug, but not hot. The mean recommended temperature is between 19 and 21 degrees, so make sure it stays around those levels whenever there are viewings and that you allow plenty of time for it to warm up beforehand. If you’ve got a gas fire, it's well worth lighting it, as it will help create the right kind of ambience. Lighting a real fire, on the other hand, is not such a good idea as they can be dangerous when left unattended.

How easy is it to get planning in our area?

Many of us have spent far too much time lately cooped up in our homes, dreaming about extra space. You might have considered buying a garden office or, as this month’s design article reveals, turning your shed into some kind of outside den. The truth is, if you want enough space for an extra bedroom, bathroom, a home study or even just a bigger kitchen, you’re going to have to build an extension. And that involves the dreaded planning permission (https://www.gov.uk/planning-permission-england-wales).

We’ve all heard horror stories from friends and family about the fights people have had with their local planning departments. About how perfectly reasonable requests have been rejected – multiple times. How planners have insisted on the most ludicrous changes and conditions. That the process has gone on forever. Mostly, though, what we've heard is, whatever you want, the answer always seems to be 'no'.

I know exactly how that feels. I am currently battling it out with my own local planning authorities, who’ve come up with a list of some of the most ludicrous objections I have ever heard. At one point, they even claimed my house was “too near a conservation area”. Surely, either you are in it or not. Or are conservation areas made of stretchable elastic? Anyway, I confess, it led to me using some very unflattering language about them. Some of it not for young ears. However, I may have erred. It turns out they are not the worst planning authority in the country, after all, although their IQs and their parents’ marital status remain unproven.

And how is it that I know this? Roofing Megastore (https://www.roofingmegastore.co.uk/) has been digging through the data. Now I know for certain who the most difficult planning authorities are. Enfield’s residents - you may want to look away now, because your local planning department is, officially, the worst of the worst. On the other hand, if you like things just the way they are, you might think them the best.

Despite our preconceptions, Roofing Megastore discovered that 91% of planning applications for home renovations in England are granted. It does, though, depend very much on where you live. Your chances of success could be as low as 65% (Enfield), or as high as 99% (Carlisle, Cumbria). So, why are there such big discrepancies? The fact is, planning permission depends on a large number of variables. These range from neighbours’ objections, to site specific factors, the type of development, whether it’s a listed building or in a conservation area and, crucially, where, exactly, the property is located.

And, although there is a national policy framework, there are localised ones too. Planning authorities have their own, area-specific building regulations, planning constraints and development targets. There are also different individuals in charge, with different ideas and agendas. It means the same project could sail through in one area and stand no chance in another. Overall, the most difficult area to get planning permission is London. Below is a list of the top ten hardest places to get permission and 8 out of 10 of them are in the capital. That maybe a result of it being one of the most densely populated areas in the country, as any developments are more likely to impinge on their neighbours.

Sadly, a lot of time and money is wasted on failed applications. A full application for an extension costs £206. Over the past three years, 309,403 were rejected, costing £64 million. If you then add in fees for design, plans and surveys (typically around £2,000), the total waste could be as high as £619 million.

If you’d like to know what chance you have with your own planning project, just follow this link (https://www.roofingmegastore.co.uk/easiest-hardest-cities-planning-permission) and check out your area on the interactive map. As for me, I’m already thinking my best route might be an appeal.

10 Hardest Places to Get Planning Permission in England

Rank    Area                                                  Approved %
1           Enfield, London                                       65.13%
2           Hillingdon, London                                  66.01%
3           Harrow, London                                      69.56%
4           Hounslow, London                                  71.24%
5           Greenwich, London                                71.47%
6           Lambeth, London                                   73.55%
7           Rochdale, Greater Manchester              74.03%
8           Southend-on-Sea, Essex                       74.46%
9           Newham, London                                   76.02%
10         Bromley, London                                    76.82%

10 Easiest Places to Get Planning Permission in England

Rank    Area                                                         Approved %
1           Carlisle, Cumbria                                   98.90%
2           Copeland, Cumbria                                98.72%
3           Richmondshire, North Yorkshire        98.17%
4           Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire       97.89%
5           County Durham, North East               97.82%
6           Fareham, Hampshire                          97.79%
7           Cornwall, South West                         97.39%
8           Eden, Cumbria                                        97.38%
9           North West Leicestershire, Midlands 97.36%
9           Rushmoor, Hampshire                        97.36%
10         Darlington, County Durham East        97.29%