In this two-minute read, we look at how we can all do our bit to support and celebrate the local businesses serving Cheshire well.
“The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
That was a quote from Muhammad Ali, and who are we to argue with sport’s greatest icon?
And although the boxing legend was talking about how we need to help each other every day, in this article, we’re looking at ways we can support the local businesses in Cheshire who go above and beyond to serve us.
Like most of us, small businesses have had it tough over the past five months. And their fight is a long way from being over as they work to overcome the challenges Covid-19 has thrown down.
The social distancing measures have meant reduced capacity in their stores, more expenses going on PPE and safety equipment and less footfall.
As a local company ourselves, we use neighbouring businesses regularly, and we know the hard work, dedication, and commitment they put into serving our community.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, because we can all feel empowered by helping those who are helping us.
Celebrate Great Service
Shopping locally is the best way to show your support, but there are also several other things you can do to make a difference and help businesses not just survive, but thrive.
We all know of shops and business owners who bend over backwards to help their customers. These are the stores or services where nothing is ever too much, and we’d miss them if they weren’t there, doing what they do.
So let’s celebrate them using these four simple ideas.
Leave a five-star Google review. Testimonials help local shops and services attract new clients.
Share your experiences on a community forum. Let your neighbours know when you receive outstanding care.
Give a thank you card. Being a small business owner can be a lonely place at the best of times, so let them know they’re in your thoughts. It’ll give them a morale boost.
Use them or lose them. The most important thing we can do if we want to ensure the future of businesses we love is to spend money with them. By keeping the pound local, we make our community stronger and our future brighter.
We take pride in serving the people of Cheshire, and we’re keen to play our part in shouting about the customer service champions within our community.
Tag or name the businesses and individuals who you feel deserve recognition for their hard work and care.
In this three-minute read, we look at seven things you can do to ease the back-to-school nerves children may be facing ahead of the new academic year.
The lockdown and ongoing fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic have been tough for everyone.
But it’s been especially hard for school-aged children.
They’ve gone months without seeing a lot of their friends, have had their routine turned upside down and now face new worries as the schools head back in September.
It’s going to be a challenging time for parents and kids, but these seven ideas from the University of Calgary in Canada can help ease any Covid-19 concerns that going back to school may bring.
1. Be Honest and Open
Don’t gloss over the facts and be truthful about what children can expect when they go to school, which will look and feel very different to life before lockdown. For younger kids, talk to them about changes in their classroom, how some activities will be postponed until things return to normal and make them aware that some familiar people may be wearing unfamiliar face masks. Ask older children if they have any concerns or want to talk about the return to school.
2. Make Them Feel in Control
It’s empowering for children to feel they can control certain things, especially during an uncertain time like this. Emphasise things they can do to fight the spread of the illness like listening to instructions, practising required social distancing and probably the best and easiest one to remember – getting into the habit of washing their hands.
3. Name It to Tame It
According to the University’s report, it helps children to recognise and even name their fears. Speaking about ‘the Worry Monster’ or for older children, labelling their worried feelings as anxiety can help them articulate what’s on their minds. According to child clinicians, naming the fears goes a long way to coping with them.
4. Listen Up
Put down your phone and listen intently if your child comes to you with concerns. By giving them attention, and showing you understand and are with them every step of the way helps reassure them that things will be ok. Children look towards adults for how to behave in certain situations so think about how you are reacting and be kind to yourselves because it’s ok for you to have nerves and worries too.
Play is a big part of the way we learn. So, why not try certain role-playing situations which your child has identified as worrying them. By playing out situations and finding solutions to problems in a safe environment, it will help them be better equipped for real-life scenarios.
6. Promote the Positives
Children have missed out on a lot of things because of Covid-19. But now they have some brighter times on the horizon. Ask them what they are most looking forward to? Who or what they have missed the most? And once they’ve returned to school, ask them what the best thing that happened during the day was?
7. Routines Reap Rewards
Of all the tips featured in this article, the authors of the University of Calgary report said that establishing a back-to-school routine is perhaps the most vital. You can build up a sense of calm and control in your children by having routine around meals and setting regular times for going to bed and waking up. Ideally, start this at least a week before the schools return.
At Storeys, we see our role in the community we serve as being about more than helping people move and find homes. That’s why we often publish articles which have nothing to do with estate agency but everything to do with offering help and advice to the people, young and old, of Cheshire.
In this two-minute read, we’ll share the secrets of how to put together a picnic you’ll be proud of.
We’ve still a few weeks of summer to enjoy.
And many people are still furloughed.
If we’re lucky, the warm sunshine might hang around until late September.
Even though the holiday season abroad has taken a big hit due to you know what, that doesn’t mean you can’t create some magical summertime memories closer to home.
We’re lucky in Cheshire in that we have access to some beautiful parks and outdoor spaces.
These are perfect for picnics.
Who doesn’t enjoy an outdoor feast with friends and family (following the safety guidelines of course).
We’ve looked up ways to create a picnic to remember and thanks to these tips from the BBC’s Good Food website, we have seven super ideas to share with you for snacking success.
Be prepared. Take time to plan what equipment you need to bring. Cool boxes, ice packs, cutlery, napkins, waste bags and particularly important now – hand sanitisers and wipes.
Plastic fantastic. Plastic gets a bad rap, but it can be a godsend when picnicking with younger children. Reusable plastic beakers are much more practical than glasses.
Think about food safety. You don’t want your day spoiled by a night with a poorly tummy. So, ensure any meat, dairy or fish dishes aren’t laid out for too long before you start tucking in, especially when it’s sweltering. Oh, and remember to use those hand wipes we mentioned earlier.
The soggy sarnie secrets. No one likes soggy sandwiches. The good news is there’s an easy trick to make that problem a thing of the past. Store any dressings and fillings in separate well-sealed containers (ideally chilled) and your sandwiches will be sensational.
Go big or go home. If you are picnicking with several others, it’s worth preparing a main dish which can be easily divided and shared when you are outside. Pies and tarts are particularly good main courses due to their ease of shareability.
Salads and small snacks. A good picnic is also a feast for the eyes when done well. The different colours of vegetables making up a healthy salad not only look good but do you good. And of course, no picnic is complete without smaller bite-sized snacks like sausage rolls, veggie pasties and mini pork pies or salad wraps.
Treat yourselves. At the end of every great picnic, there should be a sweet option to complement all that savoury fare. Delicious cookies, brownies and shortbread are easy to share and even easier to eat.
So, armed with that information, where will you be having a picnic before autumn arrives?
We’d love to know where you think the best picnic spot in Cheshire is.
Thanks for reading and enjoy summer while it lasts.
In this two-minute read, we look at the reasons behind the incredibly high levels of activity in the Cheshireproperty market.
Earlier this month saw the UK record its highest temperature in 17 years.
And it’s not just the weather that’s been red-hot.
The property market in Cheshire is going through a blisteringly busy period.
At Storeys, we’re seeing a surge in the number of buyers seeking property locally.
Unprecedented was an often-used word to describe the lockdown experience we all went through. And it feels like an appropriate word to use, especially when describing what’s happening in terms of people wanting to move.
But why is this happening?
Well, we think it’s down to three things. To help people remember them, we’ve called them the 3D effect.
Desire – One of the legacies of lockdown was that many people realised they wanted more from their current home. All that time spent indoors has led to families and individuals rethinking about where, and how, they live. This has accelerated many people’s decision-making processes. Rather than wait a couple of years to move, many feel now is the right time. We’ve heard this from several buyers and sellers who are concluding that life’s too short to delay big decisions.
Demand – When the property market in Cheshire went into lockdown it meant all moves were on hold. This caused a ‘blockage’ in the property selling/buying pipe. The relaxation of lockdown and reopening of the property market has seen a surge in demand. And where there is a demand for homes, it creates an increase in their value. So, many homeowners have realised now is a great time to make the most from their biggest tax-free asset. The saying ‘making hay while the sun shines’ springs to mind.
Duty – The Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday for properties under £500,000 in Cheshire means more people now have a larger deposit, making mortgages more available and in many cases increasingly affordable.
On their own, the 3Ds would not have caused such a surge in activity.
But the three have come together in the same period to create the perfect climate for a red-hot property market.
If you are interested in having a chat about what this could mean to you, get in touch with us.
In this two-minute read, we look at the despicable criminals targeting people’s phones in Cheshire and what we can do to stop them.
Do you know your fishing from your phishing?
While one is a gentle pastime popular among millions, the other according to Wikipedia, is this:
Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication, usually an email.
In other words, it’s a scam email.
But now we have another scam to contend with – smishing.
Smishing is on the rise. It’s when you receive a text or WhatsApp message on your phone that claims to be from a reputable source. But in reality, it is just another criminally-minded move to get you to part with sensitive data or to make a payment of some kind.
Current Smishing Scams Include:
Covid-19 Track and Trace messages that claim to be from the NHS but ask you for your bank details.
A variation of this smishing text is one that tells you to download a NHS Track and Trace app but takes you to a fraudulent lookalike site.
A classic smishing scam text tells you you’re in line for a tax rebate/business grant or some other kind of free money. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is.
A Vodafone spokesman, Ali Khamis, explained more. He said: “These scammers are very clever. Typically, a scam text will tell you you’re entitled to benefits, a tax rebate, or that you have to pay a fine for breaking the Government’s social isolation or distancing rules.”
Protect Yourself and Your Family and Friends
Here are six tips to protect you against the smishers:
Never open a link in a text message from someone you don’t know.
Never reply to text messages that have asked for or shown an interest in your finances.
Banks never text you asking for information. If you receive a text claiming to be from your bank call them on the number on your ATM card NOT a number in the message.
If you get a text from a number you don’t recognise – Google it. These numbers often flag up as being sent from scam artists.
Beware of any texts that say you need to take urgent action. This is a common technique of scammers.
If you get a text that seems dodgy, trust your instinct, because it usually turns out to be a smishing scam.
If you’ve been a victim of a smishing scam, then you need to report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040.
At Storeys, we are urging all our clients and colleagues in Cheshire to stay safe. Whether that’s online, on the phone, or in the real world.
And while we may not be able to track down smishers, we can play a big part in helping you find your next home.
In this three-minute read, we share the things you should look for when instructing a solicitor to do the legal work when selling or buying a home.
When you are selling a home, you have two crucial decisions to make.
Firstly, choosing the right estate agent to sell your home is often the difference between getting a good deal or ending up with no deal.
Secondly, selecting the right conveyancing solicitor will no doubt make your life easier and less stressful. Picking a bad one often leads to headaches, hassle and having to chase them up continually.
During the 00 years we’ve been serving the people of Cheshire, we’ve learned a thing or six about what to look out for when it comes to choosing a legal eagle over a tired turkey or a grumpy goose.
Conveyancing is legalese for transferring the ownership of property, whether you are buying or selling.
What Is a Conveyancing Solicitor, and What Do They Do?
A conveyancer, or sometimes known more simply as a property solicitor, does the following for you:
They will handle the contracts.
Be on hand to give legal advice.
They are the people who carry out local council searches.
They will deal with the Land Registry.
And they are the people who will transfer the funds to pay for your property.
They have a significant and vital part to play when it comes to progressing your sale or purchase through to a successful end.
We realise the importance of their role, and that’s why we’ve come up with the six things to look out for when it comes to choosing a conveyancer or a property solicitor.
Six Top Tips
Look for recommendations. Ask your family and friends who they have used and would they recommend them.
Communication is key. Some solicitors are notoriously tricky to get hold of and can take days/weeks to respond to your questions. Before instructing any solicitor, it’s worth asking if they have a system in place where you can view/check on the progress of your sale or purchase? And what is the minimum time frame within which they promise to get back to you?
Do they embrace technology? This is an excellent question to ask as some solicitors do not hold technology in high esteem, which can cause problems along the line.
It’s not unreasonable for you to ask if a solicitor is going on holiday during the period when you are looking to buy or sell. The last thing you want is to be nearing the exchange of contracts to seal the transaction and then discover your solicitor is sunning themselves in Marbella. Even worse is that they won’t return for a fortnight and no one else has been left to work on your file.
Do your research. Make sure your chosen property specialist is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales/Law Society of Scotland and a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme. Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.
Ask us. We’ve worked with hundreds of different conveyancing solicitors over the years. And we’ve experienced a real mix of the good, bad and the ugly (not that we are saying they’re unattractive cowboys or girls). Feel free to give us a call, and we’d be happy to provide you with recommendations and more insight into why choosing the right solicitor or conveyancer will make your life easier and raise your chances of property success.
There are plenty of great solicitors and conveyancers out there, you just need to do your homework to find them.
Thanks for reading and get in touch if you want answers to any of your property-related questions.
In this two-minute read, we look at why laughter is so crucial during tough times.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world now.
But one thing you can be sure of, is that someone, somewhere, is making the most of life and having a bit of a giggle.
And that’s a wise move, as laughing during times like these is not just good for the mind, it’s great for the body.
Medical research has shown that having a good chuckle has several immunity-boosting benefits.
Researchers found that it stimulates organs, because you take in more oxygen when you are belly laughing. It also fires up then cools down your body’s stress responses, leaving you feeling more chilled out.
It also soothes tension by increasing circulation and helping muscles relax. Remember how good you felt after something had REALLY made you laugh.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of a healthy immune system. Along with exercise, a proper diet and plenty of sleep, laughter is up there when it comes to making us more resistant to bugs, viruses and ailments.
According to scientists in America, the long-term effects of laughter include improving your immune system. This is because negative thoughts create chemical reactions in the body, wearing us down. But laughter and positive thoughts can release something called neuropeptides, which combat stress and potentially more serious illnesses.
No Sense of Humour? No Problem
Let’s face it. Some people were absent from the queue when a sense of humour was being handed out. Maybe you know someone like that? The good news is humour can be learned, meaning the joys of laughter needn’t be exclusive to people with a lighter, brighter disposition.
Here are two ways people can lighten up and have a laugh.
Consider laughter yoga (we’re not joking). It’s where people practise laughing in a group. It’s faked laughter at first but can soon develop into genuine howls of hilarity.
Show me the funny – make time to share a giggle with friends and family who are always game for a laugh. Their mirth will rub off on you according to the medical boffins.
As estate agents, we need a sense of humour, and this article wouldn’t be complete without a joke.
So, here’s one from Olaf Falafel, who won the best joke award at last year’s Edinburgh comedy festival with this gag.
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have Florets.”
Thanks for reading and if you have any serious (or silly) property questions, feel free to ask us. We’re here to help people move successfully across Cheshire.
You know your home looks good. You’ve chosen your estate agent, the photographer’s booked and you’re ready to launch.
But is there something missing….?
Let us help you transform your home from ‘market ready’ to ‘market ravishing’ with our home styling tips.
So, what is home styling?
Home styling is ‘fine-tuning’ your home so a buyer can imagine themselves living there.
Did you know that home styling can boost the number of viewings you get? The Home Staging Association reports styled homes are likely to sell three times faster than non-styled homes.
Our six (and a half) simple styling secrets guarantee to give your listing that ‘show home sparkle’.
Styling Secret #1: Scatter cosy cushions
For a great styling secret that won’t cost you the earth, start with cushions and pillows.
Pillows and cushions feature in rooms across the house. Learn the psychology behind cushion placement to transform your home.
Bedrooms are places in which we sleep and living rooms are where we lounge, stretch out and relax. As such, styling pillows and styling cushions need different approaches.
Three is the magic number and this works throughout our styling tips.
In the bedroom, keep it simple and laid back. Layer three sizes of pillows and cushions for effect. Start with crisp white pillows at the back followed by a contrasting cushion at the front. On point for hotel-style glamour.
Buyers love easy, neutral tones in living rooms, so if you love colour, save it for your cushions and throws. And if you haven’t updated your cushions and throws for a few years, now might be the time to treat yourself.
Styling Secret #2: Bowl them over with fruit
Food for thought…why not influence buyers with bowls of fruit?
Apples are a winning choice for several reasons:
Cost – apples are a bargain fruit, selling for as little as 10p!
Freshness – apples tend to stay fresh and attractive much longer than other fruits. This means you won’t have to make extra shopping trips to freshen up your display. (Top tip – when not on display, store them in the fridge to extend their appeal by weeks).
Symbolism – bright reds and greens are more than eye catching; they also symbolise health and vitality.
Also try oranges, or lemons and limes. But keep to only one or two varieties for maximum style and impact.
Styling Secret #3: Freshen up with flowers
Keep it simple, fresh and in keeping with the character of your home.
Remember to keep things balanced when it comes to home styling. Decide between a bowl of juicy Granny Smiths and a vase of sunflowers, instead of both.
Choose the right floral display for each area. A hand-picked posy is perfect for a country kitchen. Tall, tasteful lilies add elegance to a large dining table. Don’t forget bedrooms too – a mini-vase on a bedside table with a small sprig of seasonal flowers is a lovely touch.
Top tip: make sure to snip off the pollen from the stamens. Not only will this prevent stains, but it will keep your lilies flowering longer
Styling Secret #4: Tasteful toiletries
Don’t have the funds for a big-budget bathroom makeover? Don’t worry. Why waste money you could be spending on your dream home renovating the one you are selling?
Accessorising your bathroom can be simple, low-cost and fun.
Cast some mood lighting with scented candles. Grouped in glass holders by the bath and in alcoves, this looks great. Ensure they are lit for viewings to create a soothing atmosphere.
Pack your regular toiletries away out of sight. Indulge in luxury versions, for viewings only. The White Company and Molton Brown are both brands that have viewer appeal.
Styling Secret #5: Fresh towels
Freshen up the whole bathroom with new towels. Treat yourself to a set of brand-new white ‘viewings only’ towels and ask the family not to touch.
Check out photos of hotel bathrooms for ideas of how to present your fluffy white towels. Rolled or folded both work well and add a styled feel.
Depending on the size of your bathroom, there are many options. In smaller spaces, drape a folded towel over the rail.
Larger bathroom with fitted-furniture? These look great with a pyramid of rolled flannels stacked on the shelf.
Remember to stick to the rule of three on heated towel rails. Large bath sheet, medium bath towel, small hand towel.
Styling Secret #6: Add a rug
Play about with rugs to emphasise different areas of your home’s open-plan spaces. Placing a soft, fluffy rug in a living area helps to create a sense of relaxation and comfort. A hard-wearing rug under a table can define a dining area. If your rugs have seen better days, it may be time for an upgrade. After all, you can take them with you to your new home.
Styling Secret #6 ½: ask a friend!
Invite a trusted friend to be your home’s harshest critic, and to walk around with you as if they were a viewer. What jars, or stands out for the wrong reasons? Are any areas wasted, or cluttered? Do any rooms smell less fresh than you’d like? Ask your friend to be blunt, because your viewers will be. Listen with an open mind and make the changes they suggest; it could win you the sale.
If you want more tips on home styling, or are thinking about getting your home ready to go on the market, we’d love to hear from you – call us for a chat on 01606 33 99 22, or send Ian email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Whatever your plans, chatting them through, confidentially, can help. We’d be proud to be part of your moving journey.
In this three-minute read, we look at ways to smarten up your garden to boost its appeal when thinking of selling your home.
One of the most significant property trends to emerge from lockdown is the growing importance of outdoor space to buyers.
Industry insiders report that post-lockdown, an increasing number of people are looking for homes with a garden – or at least access to communal spaces.
This anecdotal evidence is backed up by Rightmove, which says searches for homes with gardens increased by 42% in May.
With buyers’ priorities shifting, we advise sellers in Cheshire to invest a little time and effort to get gardens, roof terraces and balconies looking their best.
You don’t need to be Monty Don or Carol Klein, but you do need to get the basics right. A little bit of TLC will push up the asking price and speed up the sale.
Here are some tips:
– If your garden looks more like a junkyard than a backyard, you are missing a trick. Cut the grass, blitz the weeds and trim back overgrown bushes and hedges (this will make the space look bigger and brighter).
– Repair any broken or damaged fences. This is a must, especially if you are marketing a family home. Parents will want to know that their little ones can’t wander off. Pet owners will want to ensure that their beloved pooch stays put.
– If you have swings or a trampoline in good condition, it’s okay to leave them in situ (provided they don’t crowd the space). But anything that is faded or broken must go. Footballs, sandpits and scooters need to be stored away too.
– A lick of paint goes a long way. Add a splash of colour to sheds, decking and fences.
– Ditch the clutter. Don’t take it personally but people won’t be impressed by your collection of power tools or your assortment of garden gnomes. And don’t even get us started on caravans. These need to go into storage when selling.
– Once you’ve cleared the space, consider adding a few blooms or hanging baskets. When it comes to identifying where to place them, put yourself in the shoes of a viewer. Buyers will get their first glimpse of the garden when they are inside, looking out through a window. Identify these key focal points and place your plants there for maximum impact.
– Dress to impress. If you have a separate office or studio space, make sure it is presented as such. Often people cram offices with bikes, tools and boxes. You want potential buyers (who may work from home) to be able to walk around inside and envision themselves working in there. If your office has electricity and broadband, shout about it.
– Don’t forget the front garden. Even if the front of your property only has a small amount of space, invest in a few pot plants to make it look welcoming. First impressions are hugely important.
– And a final word on bins and laundry. It’s a pet peeve of ours when marketing photos feature bins (everyone has them, we don’t need to see them) and laundry drying on the line. A good agent knows the deal is in the detail and would ensure they are NOT featured in any photos.
If you’d like more advice on how best to present your home, contact us here at Storeys. We’d love to help you make your next move.