In this two-minute read, we look at how to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Are you struggling with the dark days and long nights that kick in at this time of year? Don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Millions of Brits experience a dip in mood during the colder, greyer months, often referred to as the ‘Winter Blues’. 

Some go on to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of winter depression that seriously impacts everyday life.

Symptoms include lethargy, mood swings, oversleeping, and appetite changes (especially a craving for carbs).

Here are five ways to fight off the blues over the coming months.

1 – Bask in the light

As SAD is closely linked to a lack of exposure to sunlight, make sure you spend time outdoors every day (especially when the sun is out). Maximise the light in your home and workplace by opening curtains and blinds during the day. 

2 – Eat well

Avoid calorie-laden carbs – they’ll make you want to snooze on the sofa. Instead, eat oily fish, eggs, mushrooms, and red meat as they contain Vitamin D, a nutrient we usually get from exposure to the sun.

3 – Exercise

Exercise produces feel-good endorphins and improves your sleep. Enlist a friend to be your winter exercise buddy to keep you motivated.

4 – Live like a Scandi

Embrace the Nordic concept of Friluftsliv, which means ‘outdoor living’. This involves exercising and socialising outside in the colder months. If you have outdoor space at your home, install a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor heating, and fairy lights or lanterns. Then invite some friends over for an alfresco tipple.

5 – Take the plunge 

If you’re feeling brave, why not try cold water swimming? Researchers believe it can boost your mood, sleep, and circulation. Coldwater newbies should take things slowly and always swim with someone else and in a safe location.

And if you’re still struggling

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to speak to your GP if you feel like things are getting on top of you. They may suggest getting a light box (a special lamp that emits bright light), counselling, or prescribe medication.

From all of us here at Storeys, take care of yourself and thanks for reading.

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In this two-minute read, we look at ways you can go more organic at home. No pesticides, no chemicals, just some good old green-fingered fun!

Did you know this month is Organic September? No? Well, now you do! So, what is it and how can you get involved?

Organic September is a month-long campaign all about raising awareness of organic products and the people and brands who sell them.

Grow your own

Whether you’ve got a big back garden or a windowsill, try growing your own veg or herbs. There are lots of DIY kits available and your food will taste better when you know you’ve grown it yourself.

Top tip: Invest in a tomato tower and see the fruits of your labour (see what we did there?) pop up in just a few weeks. Once planted, you can get your hands on your homegrown tomatoes in as little as 50 days.

Try a food box delivery service

Ask your trusted pal Google for your local Cheshire ‘organic box delivery’ service and voilá! You’ll get a box full of the freshest ingredients delivered to your doorstep, ready for a healthy, greener meal.

Top tip: Food box deliveries aren’t as expensive as you may think, especially if local farmers deliver to your home (rather than just big brands). Lots of businesses offer great deals when you first sign up so get researching.  

Get your kids involved

Little ones love an activity, and what better than a few hours of muddy fun? There are lots of great options; from grow-your-own kids’ kits, to watching a potato sprout shoots before planting. Kids (young and old!) will be excited to get their hands dirty.

Top tip: Choose veg/fruit that go from seed to food quickly such as radishes, carrots, beans, and peas. Get your kids to keep a ‘growing diary’ so they can track progress.

Visit your local farm shop

Not only are you guaranteed fresh produce, but shopping locally for your organic ingredients cuts down your carbon footprint, supports small businesses, and is more sustainable. Win-win!

Other easy ways to eat well and reduce waste:

  • Buy seasonal fruit and veg
  • Reduce meat consumption
  • Cook from scratch
  • Reduce food waste by planning your meals and using up old veg/meat

How will you be supporting Organic September? Let us know your top tips by emailing us at Storeys.

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

A two-minute read looking at the price of property across our continent.

The month-long football festival AKA the Euros 2021 kicks off today.

And the home nations of England, Scotland, and Wales are all competing to win the crown of the best national side in Europe.

A win for England would be priceless, and we thought it might be a bit of fun to look at how property prices compare across the continent.

So, we jumped on Google to see what the average prices for a place to call home are in the following eight countries taking part in the 24-nation tournament. (Stats taken from 2020 – 2021 unless noted.)

England – £268,000

Wales – £178,907

Scotland – £164,099

France – £200,241

Across other parts of Europe, the focus is on the average price based on a square metre of the property.

Germany – £2,922 – per square metre (psm)

Portugal – £964 – psm

Spain – £2,071 – psm (based on new build properties)

Switzerland – £5,078 – psm

To give you a comparison, the average price psm across England and Wales was £2,954 (Jan 2021) and in Scotland £1,579 (2018).

And just like star footballers, the average values depend on how in-demand the areas are.

The cost of properties in many of the above countries is much higher in cities and areas where people buy holiday / second homes.

At Storeys, we can’t predict with any guarantee who will win the Euros when it concludes at Wembley Stadium on 11 July, but we can guarantee you a champion level of service if you choose us to help with your move.

Thanks for reading and C’mon England!

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

A 60-second speed read.

The Beatles were right when they sang ‘money can’t buy me love.’

But money can buy you a gift to give to your significant other. The trouble is not all ‘romantic gifts’ are created equally and received gratefully.

And with Valentine’s Day on Sunday here are seven presents to avoid.

  1. Anything weight-related – Slim-Fast won’t go down too well.
  2. Cheap and not so cheerful flowers. The petrol station posies won’t hit the spot.
  3. Anything DIY related.
  4. A hoover. Seriously? What are you thinking?
  5. Expired gift cards. Result – you’ve found a gift card in the kitchen drawer. But check the date before you pass it off as a gift for your other half.
  6. A massive Teddy bear. This was dubbed the most cliched Valentine gift in a survey by an online dating company.
  7. Nothing – Perhaps the worst thing you could do is to forget Valentine’s Day totally – if you do you may be making an emergency dash to the petrol station. See point 2.

At Storeys we might not be able to help you find true love, but we’re passionate about matching people with properties they adore.

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys

In July 2020, the Government announced a stamp duty ‘holiday’ to stimulate the COVID-battered housing market. Since the launch of the scheme, the number of property transactions has skyrocketed.

Conveyancing solicitors, surveyors, mortgage lenders and local authorities were already facing the challenges of working in distanced, COVID-secure environments, and with reduced staff. The surging property market has put more strain on these groups, leading to delays.

The race to the finish

With this Stamp Duty scheme due to end on 31st March 2021, there is yet more pressure to complete sales before the deadline.

For many homebuyers, particularly first-time buyers, it was the savings offered by the stamp duty holiday that made their transaction possible. Some transactions that do not complete before the end of March may collapse.

Although it is now likely that many transactions that have only recently started will not complete before the deadline, there may still be time. Even with the delays caused by high caseloads, backlogs and short-staffing, there are steps that buyers and sellers can take to give their transaction the best chance of success. 

Instruct a solicitor now

Whether you are planning to sell or purchase a property (or both), the sooner you instruct a solicitor, the better.

Many homemovers wait until they have made or accepted an offer to find a conveyancing solicitor, but there is really no reason to wait until this point.

Before your solicitor can start on the actual legal work for your property, they will need to verify your identity and complete anti-money laundering (AML) checks. The process is straightforward, and during COVID, can be done online. Nonetheless, completing these initial steps early can shave days off your transaction, particularly if there are errors that need back-and-forth correspondence to resolve.

Tip for sellers

If you are selling a property, you really should instruct a solicitor before you find a buyer, and ask your solicitor to prepare the ‘draft contract pack’ as soon as possible.

The contract pack will contain basic information about your property and the sale, like the address, property type and price, and the pack is sent to the buyer’s solicitor at the start of the conveyancing process. You should also complete the property information forms (‘TA’ forms) as soon as you can, as these can also be done before finding a buyer. The TA forms are long and will require many dates and supporting documents to be dug up from your files.

Get third parties working

Backlogs are plaguing every part of the conveyancing process. Fortunately, many aspects of buying and selling a home can run in parallel. You don’t have to wait for one party to finish before the next stage can begin.

You should get as many balls rolling as you can, including searches, property surveys and managing agents information. Although this may mean that you have to pay for more third-party costs early on, the cost of delays will easily exceed this initial expense. The cost of the extra stamp duty alone, if the deadline is missed, could be several times the total cost of all your moving expenses.

Tips for buyers

Don’t wait until you find a property to approach mortgage lenders, even if you have a good idea of your eligibility. An Agreement in Principle (AIP, or sometimes, ‘decision in principle’) is a key stage in getting a mortgage, and can take some time to organise. Starting the mortgage work early can shave considerable time off your purchase, as some banks and lenders are currently experiencing significant processing delays.

Chris Salmon, a director at Quittance.co.uk, adds, “If a seller has received multiple offers, having an AIP in place shows you are a serious buyer and could make your offer more attractive. You should also confirm as early as possible that your solicitor can act for your chosen lender, as failing to do so can be the cause of major delays.”

Tips for leasehold sellers

If you are selling a leasehold property, you should ask your solicitor to source leasehold information, including the managing agents ‘pack’, immediately.

Leasehold management is carried out by parties of all shapes and sizes, from national companies to individuals. That said, the size of the managing agent is no guarantee that they have efficient processes or that they can respond to pack requests quickly. Even before the pandemic hit, managing agents’ information could take weeks to source. This issue was the main reason why leasehold sales would take much longer to complete than freehold transactions.

Simply put, the sooner your solicitor orders the managing agents pack, the sooner it will arrive. Hopefully any delays will occur in parallel to the rest of the conveyancing process and won’t unduly delay the overall time it takes to complete your sale.

Reply ASAP

Whenever your solicitor asks you to complete a form or to respond to a question from the buyer’s solicitor, you should aim to reply as soon as you can. Replying quickly serves two key functions; saving time, and keeping your case front-of-mind with your solicitor.

On a basic level, every extra day that you take to respond could add delays to your transaction. As more and more pressure is piled on conveyancing parties in the run up to the March stamp duty deadline, delays will have a cumulative effect. Taking a couple of extra days to reply to an email in August 2020 may not have had an effect, but responding two days faster in February could make a critical difference.

Replying promptly also shows your solicitor that you are eager to keep the process moving forwards. Conveyancing solicitors are busier than ever, with less access to support staff and a greater caseload. If your solicitor trusts you will reply quickly, they may be more likely to keep you on the top of their pile.

Chase for confirmation

Don’t just shoot off replies and hope for the best. If you don’t get confirmation from your solicitor, be sure to follow up a day or so later, by phone or email, and confirm receipt.

Chasing confirmation is particularly important for the key milestones. Check with your solicitor that they have received the completed TA property forms, and that they have sent the draft contract pack to the buyer’s solicitor (or that your lawyer has requested the contract pack, if you are the buyer).

If you are buying, make sure that searches have actually been ordered. If you are selling a leasehold property, get confirmation that the managing agents pack has also been ordered.

Know where you are in the process

Although there are many moving parts in a conveyancing transaction, the process itself isn’t that complicated. There are many websites that set out the legal process for buying or selling a property in detail. Your solicitor may have sent you a timeline or similar document with their initial paperwork.

Tracking the progress of your transaction from step to step will make it easier to see and avoid some delays, and to understand when (or if) you can act to push things forward.

For example, if you know you are missing some documents and certificates, you could speak to your solicitor about getting quotes for indemnity policies before the buyer’s solicitor asks for them. If you are paying for these, that also gives you more time to organise funds.

If you know that your transaction is basically complete but that you cannot exchange because of another sale in the chain, there’s no point sending daily emails to your solicitor. If, however, you know your solicitor has received the TA forms from the seller, you can (and should) push for progress if your solicitor is yet to respond with further enquiries.

Don’t wait to raise an issue

Whatever concerns you have, you should raise them as soon as possible. If you are experiencing communication issues with the person handling your case, if emails aren’t being answered or phone calls aren’t being replied to, don’t stew in silence for weeks.

There may be good reasons for a delay, or there may not, but if you have genuine concerns you should raise them with your case handler’s supervisor or manager, the Head of Conveyancing or Property, or the firm’s complaints department. The sooner you act, the easier it often is to resolve an issue before it leads to serious delays or a collapsed sale.

Ian
07501723253 / ian@storeysofcheshire.co.uk

Copyright 2021 Storeys