As the Eat Out to Help Out scheme happens across the country next week, spare a thought for local foodbanks in Cheshire. A 90-second read.

People have experienced varying levels of hardship and distress, both emotionally and financially, since the Covid-19 outbreak began.

Someone summed it up wonderfully when they said: “We are all in the same storm, but some of us are in different boats.”

Every aspect of our lives has been touched in some way by the lockdown and foodbanks are reporting a shortage in donations as people’s minds are understandably elsewhere.

August is traditionally a slow month for donations to foodbanks, which tend to receive a flurry of items in the run-up to Christmas.

Covid-19 has exacerbated this seasonal issue because a lot more people have sadly fallen on tough times, increasing demand at a time when donations decline.

But the good news, is that we can all do something to help.

How you can help

Some of the essential, everyday goods that are most popular with foodbanks are:

Tinned soup.

Tinned fruit.

Tinned vegetables.

Pasta, rice, and sauces.

Cereals.

Long-life products.

Tea, coffee, cordial, and biscuits.

Even the smallest donations add up when people pull together to help their neighbours and their community.

Many foodbank websites have regularly updated sections asking for specific items if they are running low. So, it’s worth visiting their sites and seeing what is most needed.

Certain products should ideally be avoided, including dairy, dented tins, perishable items like fresh fruit, and homemade cooking or baking.

And it’s not just donations of food that are welcomed. Many foodbanks need financial support to keep their operation running. So, another way of helping could be to make a monetary donation.

At Storeys, we feel fortunate that we can support our local foodbanks in any way we can, including publicising the excellent work they do and saluting their amazing volunteers who make it all happen.

Thanks for reading.

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this two-minute read, we discover why the opportunity clocks are ticking for people wanting to make the most of the Stamp Duty holiday.

“Life is a Game” is a quote attributed to Mother Teresa, but it could be easily applied to property.

And as with all games, there are winners and losers when it comes to selling a home.

Timing always plays a part in how successful you are, as does having a talented estate agency working on your behalf to get you a winning result.

The announcement earlier this month that Stamp Duty for properties under £500,000 is eliminated until March 31, 2021, means there’s now plenty of opportunity knocking on the doors of homeowners in Cheshire.

Buyers can save up to £15,000 during this window.

Opportunity Clocks

Depending on what source you look at, it takes on average (from a cold start) between 176 to 200 days to sell a home.

This means the opportunity clock is now ticking before that March 31 deadline.

The Stamp Duty holiday means:

  • Deals that were dead in the water over a difference in the value buyers and sellers were prepared to accept (especially between £15-30,000) are now potentially resurrected.
  • Having more to put down as a deposit is opening more of the mortgage market to buyers.
  • As is the decision by several lenders to reintroduce 90% Loan to Value mortgages.
  • If you’re thinking of selling, you’ll also benefit from the Stamp Duty removal if the place you’re buying is under the £500,000 bracket.

But it’s not enough to put your most valuable tax-free asset up for sale and hope the rising tide of a buoyant market in Cheshire helps you achieve the premium price for your property.

You also need to remember the following five things, which we’ve related to classic game shows to help you remember.

Blankety Blank – Watch out for cheap and not so cheerful agents or agencies that promise the earth but can’t back it up with evidence and case studies.

The Price is Right – Overvaluing a property will mean it sticks, no matter what the market is doing or if stamp duty has been put on hold. Pricing it correctly to sell at a premium price is a skill experienced agents like us have.

Through the Keyhole – When you are on the market, your property gets put under the microscope so prepare it thoroughly so that viewers will feel like it’s a place they’d love to call home.

Countdown – Remember that date – March 31, 2021 – The sooner you start marketing your property, the better. The clock is ticking.

Bullseye – When you choose an agent with an excellent track record and fair fees who values your property correctly and can guide you on every aspect of the selling process, you’ve hit the bullseye. And you won’t be left thinking about what you could’ve ‘won.’

At Storeys, we see working with a client to sell their home as a team effort. So, if you like the sound of our approach and are interested to know how we’d help you make the most of the Stamp Duty window of opportunity, let’s talk.

Thanks for reading.

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this three-minute read, we look at how the Eat Out to Help Out scheme can give struggling restaurants and cafes in Cheshire a much needed boost.

We’ve been asked to do many things in recent months: stay home, home school, wear masks, keep apart and wash our hands, to name but a few.

And now we’re being called to action again.  But this time to dine out to help the hospitality industry get back on its feet after being hit for six by the lockdown.

As far as sacrifices go, this one is most definitely our favourite. After spending lots of time cooped up indoors eating our own half-baked sourdough and soggy souffle, eating out will be a welcome change.

So, we will be backing the Eat Out to Help Out scheme when it starts next month and urge you to do the same.

It’s not the most imaginatively titled initiative, but the idea – to help our high streets by supporting local eateries – is one we fully support.

We understand some people can’t eat out right now due to health or financial reasons, but if you can do your bit to keep businesses open and support jobs in Cheshire, then please do.

Here’s what you need to know about the scheme.

  • It is running every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday between 3 and 31 August.
  • Eat out on these days at a participating restaurant, pub, or cafe, and you can get 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks up (booze not included) to the value of £10 per person if you eat or drink in.
  • The discount is applied straight away – no filling out of forms or waiting for refunds.
  • You can take advantage of it as many times as you like.
  • There’s no minimum spend and you don’t have to order food to be eligible, for example a £3 coffee would cost £1.50 under the scheme.
  • A website will be up and running by 31 July giving you a list of eateries taking part in the scheme.

It’s worth noting that it’s not just restaurants, cafes and pubs that can take part. Work and school canteens and food halls can too, providing they have registered.

If you’re keen to take advantage of the scheme, always check that the venue is taking part before you order – to avoid any nasty surprises when the bill arrives.

Remember that many eateries can only serve a limited number of diners right now and ask that customers book ahead.

If you do make a reservation and can’t make it, let the venue know. No-shows cost businesses money, and things are tough in the hospitality industry.

Even before the pandemic, many food outlets, especially restaurants, were finding it challenging.

Between 2018 and 2019 almost 1,000 restaurants disappeared from UK high streets. (Overall numbers fell from 27,189 to 26,265. Source: Statista).

If we want Cheshire to have a thriving shopping and leisure centre and a warm neighbourhood buzz, it’s up to us to support it.

Here at Storeys, we’re proud to be part of the community, and we are doing all we can to back it in these unusual times.

Thanks,

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this two-minute read, we look at the return of 90% loan to value mortgages (LTV) and the flurry of activity in the housing market.

The property market has received a shot in the arm with some lenders including Nationwide reintroducing 90% LTV mortgages for first-time buyers.

As Nationwide is Britain’s second-biggest lender, the decision is another piece of good news for the sector which has roared back into action in recent weeks.

Metro Bank, Coventry for Intermediaries and Platform, the intermediary arm of the Co-operative Bank, have also brought back 90% LTV products.

Why are 90% LTV mortgages such a big deal?

For many first-time buyers, the most significant barrier to purchasing their own place is getting the deposit together.

With their 10% deposit requirement, 90% LTV mortgages are the most accessible option for those striving to buy their first home.

So, when lenders pulled their 90% LTV deals in June due to uncertainty over the economy, first-time buyers felt the squeeze. This was a broader concern for the industry because if property newbies can’t enter the market, it affects all the other players in the property chain.

First-time buyers are a driving force in the housing market, responsible for more than a third of all sales (according to property portal Zoopla). But now good mortgage deals are back on the table, things are looking up.

Back on track – big-time

After months in the doldrums due to lockdown, there has been a flurry of activity in the Cheshire housing market.

Miles Shipside, commercial director, and housing market analyst at Rightmove, said: “There’s been record demand for property on Rightmove since the market reopened.”

If you know someone who might find this article of interest, please share it with them or tag them below.

Here at Storeys, we’re here to help you make your move. Whether you’re a first-time buyer, or someone looking for pastures new, we can make it happen.

Thanks,

Ian

07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this three-minute read, we look at why our sports clubs and arts groups in Cheshire are so crucial to our communities.  

It was a sad and sorry sight when clubhouses, theatres and church halls were mothballed during the lockdown. Places that once buzzed with activity sat empty; the groups who once occupied them hit for six by social distancing rules.

But we’re glad to see many sports clubs are up and running again – albeit with fewer volunteers and a long list of new health and safety rules to follow.

And we’re keeping our fingers crossed that choirs and am-dram groups will be able to meet in person again soon. Here are three reasons why these groups are so crucial to local communities and why we all should support them.

They help battle the bulge

In a perfect world, we all would have emerged from lockdown with guns like Serena Williams and buns like Joe Wicks. But for many of us (excuse us while we cough sheepishly), it didn’t happen. We ate more and exercised less.

The trend was particularly startling among young people. A study* of children and teens in Verona, Italy, found that during lockdown they ate more (an additional meal per day), slept more and spent an extra five hours a day on screens. The only thing that decreased was physical activity – down by more than two hours per week.

Grassroots sports clubs play an essential role in the physical well-being of the nation. In the UK there are 150,000 sports clubs with eight million regular participants. They help build social bonds and play a vital role in the fight against obesity.

Cultural contribution

Some people are snobbish about amateur dramatics, but we’re not too proud to say we find Widow Twankey swanky.

Am-dram brings people together and makes theatre accessible and affordable to all. Many people’s introduction to the theatre will come via a trip to their local panto.

There are about 2,500 am-dram groups associated with the National Operatic and Dramatic Association and many more smaller community arts groups in the UK. They deserve our support.

As well as providing entertainment, they help many people develop their artistic talents. Some like Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ben Kingsley and Keira Knightley go on to become household names. Those who don’t wind up in the West End or Hollywood still gain confidence and social skills.

Many am-dram groups are yet to return to in-person rehearsals, leading us to wonder if we’ll get to enjoy a panto this Christmas. We’d love the answer to be “Yes we will!” but in truth, it’s probably too early to say.

Mental health boost

Research published by the Royal Society found that singing improves mental health and well-being. This is because when we sing, feelgood hormones called endorphins and the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin are released.

About 2.14 million people regularly sing in choirs, and there are about 40,000 singing groups in the UK (pre-lockdown figures from the Voices Now charity). All have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Thankfully, many have continued to meet virtually during the pandemic, and we look forward to the day when they can return to live performing.

Here are three simple ways you can support local groups.

  • Help promote local sports groups and teams online by giving them a mention on social media.
  • Commit to buying a ticket for the first round of your local drama group’s performances when showtime comes around again.
  • Get involved. One thing Covid-19 has taught us all is that life is precious, and this isn’t a dress rehearsal or a warm-up. Why not volunteer to coach at a local sports club or to help out at a local theatre, choir, or art group?

Here at Storeys, we’re proud to be part of the local community. We’re here to help and support during these difficult times.

Thanks,

Ian

07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this three-minute read, we look at what the Stamp Duty holiday and a new grant scheme for green home improvements mean for landlords.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak made two big announcements about the property market last week and triggered a flurry of activity.

Both initiatives represent attractive propositions for savvy landlords. But, as always, it pays to do your homework first.

Stamp Duty holiday

The Chancellor’s headline-grabbing announcement was a Stamp Duty holiday. He raised the threshold to £500,000, a move that means a potential Stamp Duty saving of up to £15,000, depending on the price of the property.

But all holidays must come to an end, and this one runs out at the end of March 2021. So, buyers will have to move relatively quickly, given the time it takes to complete on transactions. As they say, you snooze, you lose.

What it means for landlords

For buy-to-let investors who wish to expand their portfolio, this is a significant opportunity even though the current 3% surcharge that applies to second homeowners still stands.

But – and sorry to state the obvious here – it only represents a saving if you buy at the right price. Landlords also need to weigh up the state of the lettings market to gauge their rental returns.

While most rental markets are holding firm, given how much has happened in recent months, it’s worth getting expert advice first. Talk to us about where the Cheshire rental market is heading before you make any big decisions.

Green Homes Grant

The second big announcement was the Green Homes Grant scheme which aims to encourage property owners to make their homes more sustainable.

Full details on the scheme are still to come but, in essence, landlords can get a grant that covers two-thirds of the cost of energy efficiency improvements up to the value of £5,000. The scheme covers insulation, eco-friendly boilers, double glazing, draught-proofing, solar panels, and heat pumps.

To be eligible landlords will need to make an online application (the government promises the website will be up and running from September). Local suppliers will then quote on the work, and if the government approves the submission, it will issue a voucher.

So, if you’ve been thinking about replacing the rattling single-glazed windows at your property, or installing solar panels, now is an excellent time to take the plunge (once you’ve received the nod from the government, of course).

Providing the work is carried out to a high standard, this will be a good move for the environment and your pocket.

It’s also an opportunity to make a property more appealing to tenants (who doesn’t want to live in a home with low running costs?).

And should you wish to sell further down the line, it makes the property more marketable.

For advice about how best to make your property energy efficient, speak to us.

We’re used to advising clients about energy efficiency standards and can provide feedback about the most effective green measures.

For up-to-date analysis of the lettings market or advice about making a property more energy-efficient, contact us here at Storeys.

We’re here to help landlords realise the full potential of their investments.

Thanks,

Ian

07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this three-minute read, architect Nigel Bidwell shares his tips on what to look for when buying a property AND ways to add value to your current home.

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, the property market has roared back into action.

This has been turbo-charged in England and Northern Ireland by the stamp duty holiday announced last week on the first £500,000 of property sales. (Take out in Wales and Scotland).

If you’re thinking of purchasing a property or simply looking to add value before you sell, Nigel, a partner with JTP, suggests you do your research.

That way, you will be able to identify properties where there is potential to add value.

If you’re selling, these tips will give you some useful ideas about the key features to highlight in marketing material.

Ignore the superficial stuff – Buyers

If you don’t like the carpet or wallpaper, it doesn’t matter. Don’t get hung up or put off by someone else’s taste in décor.

“Look at the bones of the property to see how spaces flow from room to room,” Nigel says. “Look for opportunities to change the way the rooms connect. Don’t be scared to tap the walls and to ask about the planning history of the property.”

The light touch works – Sellers

“Light is the key to the enjoyment of any space,” Nigel says. “Light, bright rooms, high ceilings and large windows all contribute to the overall quality of a property.” Look for ways to open small rooms, increase the size of windows and add more light.

What have the neighbours done? Buyers & Sellers

“Study other properties in the street to see if they have been refurbished or extended. Also, look on Google Earth to see if neighbouring properties have dormers or rooflights – a sign that they have converted the loft space.”

Reviewing homes in the same street will give you some good design ideas and an indication of what is likely to get planning permission.

Outdoor space – Buyers & Sellers

“Interaction with nature makes us feel happier and improves our well-being – something that came to the fore during lockdown,” Nigel says. “As a result, people appreciate external space more than ever and are placing increasing value on gardens, balconies and roof terraces.”

It’s great to blur the boundaries between inside and outside – think kitchens with glass doors that open onto gardens, or inside spaces filled with plants.

Get the right aspect – Buyers & Sellers

“Consider how you will use the property, not just now but in the future,” he says.

South-facing gardens are the most sought after, but if you’re a commuter who spends time outside in the evenings, west-facing might be more suitable. Go for an east-facing property if you love having a sunny breakfast in the garden.

Sustainability – Everyone

“Sustainability is becoming more important in the way we view the value of a property,” Nigel says.

“Increasingly with climate change, it’s not just about heating, it’s about cooling too. New builds are so well insulated these days that the problem is more likely to be how to cool a property.

“You want to be able to open windows to ventilate a space. If there is a busy road nearby, there may be noise implications around doing this. Also look for active measures such as solar panels, photovoltaics, and air-source heat pumps as these will reduce running costs.”

We hope these tips help you as much as they have many of our clients across Cheshire.

Whether you’re buying or selling, at Storeys we’re here to help you make your next move in the property market a successful one.

Thanks,

Ian

07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this three-minute read, we explore how you can help the little community groups that make such a big difference in Cheshire. 

Throughout this pandemic, many kind-hearted volunteers have rolled up their sleeves without fuss or faff. They have cooked, sewn, fundraised, collected, and delivered to support those in need.

They are members of small neighbourhood groups and charities which make an enormous contribution to life in Cheshire – and it’s time that contribution was properly recognised. And no, we’re not talking about a round of applause.

We’re talking about reaching out and helping out.

Local matters

According to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, there are 136,000 micro or small charities in the UK* and between 600,000 to 900,000 unincorporated groups and organisations.

They provide all sorts of support, such as delivering food to the most vulnerable, picking up litter, planting trees and helping the homeless.

These small groups are often the first to recognise a need in the community and to respond to it. However, many operate on shoestring budgets and rely on a few, dedicated individuals to keep the show on the road.

As a result, even small contributions of time or money can have a significant impact.

Read on to see how you can help make a difference.

Offer your time. 

This could be in the form of hands-on labour or the provision of useful services. Many small charities are crying out for people to help with the accounts, social media, or publicity. Whatever your skillset, there will be a local group that welcomes your talents. Consider giving up a few hours a month to help them out.

Organise a one-off fundraiser. 

If you don’t feel able to make a regular time commitment, why not arrange a raffle, silent auction, or digital pub quiz to generate funds? Get some friends involved (so you can share the load) and draw on your network of local contacts.

Devise your own sponsored sporting event. 

In the absence of long-distance running, triathlon and cycling events due to Covid-19, many people are creating their own challenges. You could pledge to run 30 miles in 30 days or to clock up a ridiculous number of hours on a stationary bike. Be as creative and whacky as you dare and get training AND fundraising.

Get your business to support a local charity for a year. 

By doing so, you can spread fundraising events over 12 months, and get colleagues to chip in. Having a charity of choice is an excellent way for businesses to develop community links and build team spirit within the company.

Sign up to a charity fundraising site.

EasyFundraisingAmazonSmile and The Giving Machine will make a small donation to a charity of your choice, every time you make an online purchase. Usually, they donate 0.5% of the purchase price to your chosen charity (conditions apply). While this may not seem like a lot, the tally can accumulate over time.

We can all do our bit and rise to the community challenge that the awful Covid-19 epidemic has laid down before us.

Here at Storeys, we’re proud to be a part of the community in Cheshire and want to do all we can to help it thrive and prosper.

*A micro charity has an income of £10,000 or less a year. A small charity is defined as having between £10,000 and £100,000 income a year.

Thanks,

Ian

07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

A 2-minute read.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced sweeping changes this afternoon around Stamp Duty which is excellent news for anyone thinking of buying a home in Cheshire.

Stamp Duty is a tax applied when you buy a property and the announcement that there will be a payment holiday starting immediately means homebuyers will save thousands of pounds.

What’s Changing?

The Government has raised the stamp duty threshold to £500,000 for all buyers until March 31st, 2021.

That means property purchases below £500,000 will not need to pay ANY stamp duty.

On average that will save homebuyers at least £4500 according to the Chancellor, also meaning 9 out of 10 people will pay no Stamp Duty whatsoever while the holiday lasts.

The move has been welcomed by home buyers and across the property industry. It is being seen as a step on the path to getting Cheshire and the UK’s economy firing on all cylinders again.

What it Means to You

You’re most likely thinking ‘how much could I save when buying a new property now?’

Well, the more you pay for a property during the Stamp Duty Holiday – up to the new £500,000 threshold – the more you can save.

For example, according to the BBC, if you bought a house for £275,000 before today’s announcement, the Stamp Duty you’d have to pay would be £3,750.

What does it mean for the Cheshire property market?

We’ve already seen a lot of interest in the Cheshire property market since lockdown was relaxed.

This move by the Government will keep the positive momentum going and help the broader economy.

This is because when people move, they often spend thousands of pounds doing up their new home to suit their lifestyle and tastes.

The change also means now is a great time to put your property on the market as we’re expecting a surge of buyers looking to make their move while they can save a large chunk of cash.

What we’re doing to help buyers and sellers

We’re primed and ready to take your calls and answer any questions you have around the new Stamp Duty changes.

So, if you are thinking of selling in 2020 now is the perfect time thanks to this news.

080820 Stamp Duty Bonus

We’re always here to help so if there’s something you want to know, call us now on 01606 339922.

Thanks for reading

The team at Storeys.

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this two-minute read, we look at helpful new advice for landlords dealing with cases of rent arrears.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many predicted Covid-19 would have a disastrous impact on the private rental sector.

But new figures show that 90% of tenants have paid their rent in full during the pandemic—a better result than many had anticipated.

Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. Covid-19 will have a significant impact for some time to come, so the issue of rent arrears is still a very real one.

*With this in mind, several property industry organisations have pooled resources and published some useful guidance for landlords and tenants on rent arrears. Here’s a rundown of the main points for landlords.

Communication is key

No news isn’t always good news. If you haven’t spoken to your tenant for a while, get in touch and see how they are getting on. If their circumstances have changed, it’s better to know about it as soon as possible. Remember some people’s lives have been turned upside down by Covid-19, so be professional and compassionate.

Keep the conversation going

If there is a problem, there are several options you could consider, such as rent reductions or deferred payments. The action you take will depend on the circumstances. It could be that offering a rent reduction will cost you less than finding a new tenant. Market values in your area may have changed, meaning that if you did re-let the property, it might be at a reduced price.

Keep written records

Document all conversations with your tenants. Often exchanges take place on the phone or via text and can be misconstrued. Clarity is key. Always follow up with an email reiterating what has been said and agreed. This means everyone knows where they stand. And if the situation does wind up in mediation, or in court (we hope it doesn’t, but you never know) you have clear records to refer to.

If you have multiple tenants in a property

Make sure you are having conversations with all the tenants in a property. Never rely on one tenant to speak for another or to pass the information on. This could be a recipe for confusion and dispute.

Don’t forget the legal implications

If you do come to a new agreement, think about how it squares up to your legal responsibilities. For example, if you reduce the rent, does this change the amount of deposit you are legally allowed to hold (with a registered deposit scheme, of course)? If the rent drops, you may have to return a small proportion of the deposit to keep within legal guidelines.

The Easier, More Effective Alternative

Given the complexity of some of the issues involved, consider getting an experienced letting agent to deal with it for you. Many landlords will never have managed a case of rent arrears before and be in new territory. Having capable professionals like us, to lighten the load will save you time, money, and stress.

*Arrears Management and Coronavirus is published by the NRLA, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Property Redress Scheme, ARLA Propertymark, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and My Deposits.

Ian is here to help during these testing times. If you’d like advice on any of the matters discussed in this piece, get in touch.

 

Thanks,

Ian

07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys