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25Feb

In addition to finding a new home for sale or rent which has the space and amenities you are looking for and is within your price range, when moving home, there may also be other considerations to take into account Here are some questions to ask your Vendor, or Estate Agent and a few things to consider which can give you more information and help you be prepared for every eventuality before you move into your new property.

 

 

Who lives nearby?

Gone are the days when people knew everyone on their street, but your vendor should hopefully be able to tell you who lives in the homes close by to you. Is there a young family living there, or a couple on their own? Is the property a house share? Is there a dog living next door or any other pets? Having this information can help with getting to know your neighbours (or avoiding them), especially if you share a wall!

 

 

Wi-Fi

Given that Wi-Fi apparently now ranks highest in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, decent speed internet is often high up on the list of must-haves for a new home. Ask your vendor for info on their experience with broadband, or use a broadband checker tool to test the average speeds in the area. Similarly, do check whether you have good mobile coverage too.

 

 

School Catchment Areas

If you have children, or are planning on having them in the future, then of course your move may be motivated by school catchment areas. It’s helpful to find out whether your vendor knows if your property falls into school catchment areas over the last couple of years, although be aware that these can change year-on-year so don’t base it on previous catchment areas, especially if these are from many years ago.

 

You can also check this information for yourself, using a variety of different websites. Typically, your local council will be able to tell you whether your address falls into the catchment for the last few years, or you can ask each school directly for Catchment Area information.

 

Weather History

Ask your vendor about what the property is like at different times of year and whether the weather has affected the property before. For example, does the garden get the sun of a summer’s afternoon and makes a great spot for sunbathing? Has the property ever flooded before? Make sure you also ask about whether garages or sheds have been flooded due to bad weather too. Has the property ever been affected by high winds? What about snow? Are you likely to get snowed in or have trouble getting off your drive or down the road if it’s icy in winter? Are power cuts common during summer thunderstorms?

 

These may not necessarily be eventualities which would put you off buying or renting the property, but it’s always useful to know this information to help you to be prepared for life at different times of the year.

 

Amenities

Use a search engine to determine where the closest supermarkets to your new property are located and what their opening hours are. Also check which supermarkets will deliver to your new address and whether there are any smaller shops offering the security of an emergency pint of milk or loaf of bread.

 

Lifestyle

Have a think about what your hobbies are as your lifestyle may be linked to your house move.  For example, if you love walking then it may be helpful to have nice walks on your doorstep. If your hobbies are cycling, then check whether there is a cycle route near your home or somewhere that you can easily cycle to. Most importantly, will there be storage if your hobby involves equipment If your hobbies are further afield, then check that you can travel to where your hobbies are easily.

 

Transport Links

Think about how you travel around, and how easy it will be to get to the places you need to go from your prospective new home. Are you mainly a Car Driver? If so, how easy is it to travel to and from the places you go to every day? Are there nearby links to major roads and motorways if you need to be able to travel around the county easily?

 

Are you a commuter? If so, is it an easy walk, drive or ride to the Train Station? Do you use public transport and buses regularly? Is your home on a bus route? If public transport is important to you and it’s something that you’re going to be needing to use regularly, then it’s no good living in a place where there are no easy transport links.

 

Community

If community is important to you, then it can help to find out how community orientated your area is. Perhaps you’re really hoping to get involved with the local community and do some volunteering, or you are simply hoping there is lots going on and a good community feel to the area. Have a look and see whether your local area has a parish council or a local website as this will give you an indication of how community orientated the area is.

 

It may be that community life is centred around a place of worship, so if you attend church then it can be useful to know what local places of worship are around too.

 

Then of course there’s the local pub! The local pub is often the hub of many communities, and so again, if this is something which matters to you, then check out your prospective new local to help you make your decision.

 

Having information about these considerations can help you to make an informed decision on whether your new move is going to be right for you.

 

We’re always on-hand to answer any questions you may have about moving, so for info on the local area, or to book a property valuation, or enquire about homes for sale or rent, why not call us on 01727 221290 or pop into the office and see us!

 

 

01Feb

St Albans and the surrounding areas has always been prime commuter belt territory, with large swathes of residents commuting daily into London, and it seems that in recent years, the popularity of the local area with commuters shows no sign of change, as those looking to buy outside London but still be able to travel to work in the city have flocked to the local area for the advantages that living here offers. If you are new to the area and have been looking at homes with the intention of living somewhere within an easy walk to the station, it can be tricky to get to grips with the different parts of the city, so here is some info on the different areas of St Albans and their ease of commute into our capital city. 

St Albans City Station situated off Victoria Street, close to the Town Centre is served by Thames Link trains and transports commuters to St Pancras, Blackfriars and London Bridge in 21 minutes on the fast train, so properties located within a short walking distance of the station and the town centre are prime location for a quick journey between home and work.

These properties attract a more premium price for having the ease of the town centre and the station on your door step, plus a whole host of other amenities on tap.

Properties in the town centre include a large proportion of Apartments/Flats and also great swathes of terraced housing, so it’s a common trend for commuters to initially opt to rent or buy close to the town centre due to its convenience and then to move further out of town as their families grow and more space and the desire for a larger garden and better parking options sets in.

Speaking of parking, in a historic city, with many houses and streets built before the convenience of the motor car, parking can be a tricky issue for residents around the town centre, and it’s almost non-existent for commuters as St Albans District Council operates a “permit parking only” scheme in large swathes of the city, designed to deter those who want to park their car there all day for the station, rather than paying the prices of the Station Car Parks, so the town centre areas are great for walking to the station, but can be more tricky to make work if you have a more modest budget and a growing family and car parking to consider.

There are various “rent a car parking space” schemes where private individuals rent out a parking space on their drive or property close to the city station, and these are often a more cost-effective option than parking at the main city stations for commuters.

Areas around the town centre and station which fall into prime walking distance to the station include the St Peters area (roads around St Peters Street, Holywell Hill and Fishpool Street) which are all city centre based and the Clarence Park area which heads out towards Fleetville on the other side of the station. You can typically walk to the station in between 5-15 minutes from these areas. These areas pretty much all have parking permit restrictions in place, but with such great transport links to take you t ow here you want to go, you may decide that a car isn’t necessary for town centre living.

Move a few minutes further away and past Clarence Park you’ll find the Fleetville and Camp Road areas, still within about a 20-minute walking distance and popular with young families thanks to their (slightly) more reasonably priced housing, access to local shops and school catchment areas. There is lots going on in these areas for young families, plus you’ve got the convenience of Clarence Park and some green space also within walking distance. These areas comprise of terrace housing with permit parking and also some newer builds with their own driveways towards the outskirts, where parking restrictions may not be in place. 

Further out a little more next door to the Camp and Fleetville is the popular Highfield Park estate. Built on the site of an old hospital around two miles from the city centre, Highfield park epitomises suburbia, with its family friendly homes and streets built in the 1990’s. Walking distances to the train station from here are around 30 minutes, so it may be wise to invest in a bike if you are commuting from here. Similarly, Marshalswick also neighbours Highfield in this area on the other side of Hatfield Road and is a similar walking distance to the station. Marshalwick is a more diverse property area with its own “quadrant” shopping centre and ferocious school catchment areas which change year-on-year. 

Going out past the town centre towards Verulamium park and neighbouring the Abbey Cathedral are the quaint more “exclusive” areas of St Michael’s and the conservations area. Think Olde Worlde Tudor England charm fused with the modern day and throw a myriad of pubs in for good measure and this is what you will find in this area. Although a slightly longer walk to the station (around 30 minutes), you are paying premium to live within the earshot of the bells of the Abbey and throwing distance of Verulamium park.

We then move to areas outside of the town centre including Jersey Farm a newer “estate” development to the North-East of the town and Sandridge, once a village in its own right and now an extension of St Albans. Move to the East of the town adjoining St Michaels and you’ve got Batchwood, Townsend New Greens and Bernards Heath areas, all not really walkable to the station, but offering more modern living and more space. Cycling to the station would be doable from these areas within 15-20 minutes.

Go over to the East of the city towards Radlett and Hatfield and we then come across Smallford, Colney Heath and London Colney all previously small communities which have morphed into greater St Albans. These areas host a vast difference in properties and at three-four miles away, all of these locations would most likely require a drive to the station.

Heading to the South of the City and we then come to the area of the city served by the “other” train station – the Abbey Flyer. The St Julians/Cottonmill and Sopwell area of St Albans lies within walking distance of the Abbey Flyer line, as do the St Stephens and Chiswell Green areas. All of these areas are walkable for the Abbey Flyer, but would require transport for St Albans City. The Abbey Flyer Line boasts transport links to London via Watford Junction Train Station where commuters can change for travel to London Euston Station and the gateway to the London Underground. 

Staying to the south of the city and going out to St Albans peripheries the St Stephens areas of Bricket Wood, Park Street and How Wood are all further out of town so expect more for your money and better transport links via the M25/M1 junctions at Chiswell Green, but also all three areas boast their own train stations which are on the Abbey Flyer Line going into St Albans Abbey Station and out to Watford Junction Station on the other side. Although a longer commute than from the City Station area, these areas offer the best of both worlds and offer a more “village” feel to those who still want London within easy reach.

Speaking of Villages, the St Albans district boasts some great villages and so for those looking for a taste of rural living, the villages of the district and postcode boundaries include Redbourn, Wheathampstead, Flamstead and Markyate are in truth closer to Harpenden, (the next stop up on the Thames Link further away from London). Those living on the “Harpenden side” of St Albans may choose to travel to Harpenden station, although expect the journey to take longer (26 minutes) and not a many fast trains travel direct to Harpenden as St Albans.

Those living in Redbourn, Flamstead and Markyate are spoilt for choice for transport options, although all links to London will involve driving or getting a bus to a train station. These villages are an easy drive to Luton Station on the Thameslink (where you’ll allegedly always get a seat) or you could drive to nearby Hemel Hempstead and get the line directly to London Euston.

So, for those moving out of London initially who may want to stay close by to the City Station then this option represents city working without the London life. For those wanting to move to a bigger home or more rural area, moving further out with the prospect of driving into the station, or traveling to another station may be a good option.

We are always happy to advise on the best areas of St Albans and the surrounding areas to suit your individual lifestyle and needs, so feel free to give us a call on 01727 221 290 or pop into the office and have a chat with us for more information on the best areas of the city to suit you.

 

 

 

 

 

 


12Dec

Are you planning your next move in 2019? In the run-up to Christmas, with everything going on, it’s easy to think that you should put off having a valuation and then placing your property on the market for sale or rent, until the New Year. 

However, did you know that Christmas is prime time for people to start their property hunt online? Yes, never mind the Boxing Day sales and pondering what Kevin Mcallister's Dad's Job was in Home Alone for them to be able to live in such a big house, (just us?), it seems that there is a huge appetite for shopping for property over the festive period as we all look forward to the year ahead. 

According to popular property portal Rightmove.co.uk, over 1.6 million people visited its website between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day last year, with those hoping to move in the New Year property hunting in-between opening presents, watching Christmas films and over indulging on the Turkey, Mince Pies and Chocolates. 

If you have been planning to place your property on the market for sale or rental in the New Year, then we would recommend perhaps getting ahead of the game, and getting everything in order during December. This ensures that those eager property hunters will be able to view your property online over the festive season and then book viewings for the New Year. 

So, in readiness to help prepare your property for sale or rent this month, or over the next few months, here are a few festive-related tips to help your property succeed once it goes to market. 

Deck the Halls… 

Or not as the case may be! You could have decorations up over the festive season, but prospective buyers or tenants really have to be able to envision the place as their own, and they can’t do this if your belongings are stuffed wall to ceiling in each room and hide the true space and ambience that the room offers. If you are decorating your home for Christmas, then this could provide a great opportunity to place some of your non-essential belongings into boxes which can stay in the loft or in storage until you make the move to your new residence. Once Christmas is over, take down the decorations and voila, a clutter free space to showcase once viewings start!

O Little Town…or City…or Village… or Hamlet

Before agreeing on a price to market your home for, it’s helpful to build up an idea of the local property market in your town or city, to help you understand how well properties are selling and the average price that your property may be worth. Nowadays it’s easy to search past house-prices on the internet, so having this information to hand before a valuation could be a helpful base to work with an estate agent from, or any estate agent worth their fee should be able to give you information on the local property market scene. 

Santa Clause is coming to town… and so are your prospective buyers/tenants

No sooner has the man in red headed back to the North Pole with his reindeer for a well-earned rest, and the peels of Big Ben and Auld Lang Syne rung out, then the New Year will be here and your property will become a sales showroom for all to traipse in and out of. 

It’s essential to ensure that your property creates a great first impression for prospective buyers or tenants. The outside needs to entice viewers inside and so the festive period may be the ideal time to spend a bit of time, money or effort making the exteriors and interiors of your property look attractive and welcoming. Despite the weather, tidying up gardens and lawns, sweeping up leaves and cobwebs, cleaning windows or even a quick lick of paint could make all the difference, as could some perhaps some artificial plants and trees to brighten your exteriors up if they look quite bare generally. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

Little Donkey… 

Whilst legend has it that Mary and Joseph were grateful to give birth in a stable full of animals, if your property plays host to your very own unique menagerie of animals then this can be very off putting for someone trying to view your property as their next home if they are not an “animal person”.

Ok so it’s hardly Oxon, Donkeys, Sheep and the odd stray Camel, but if possible, once the Christmas chaos is out the way, in your post-Christmas clean, ensure that any animal hair from cats, dogs or rabbits is hoovered up and clear animal bedding and pet food bowls away for viewings. Once viewings start, try to arrange if possible, for dogs or larger pets to be out. 

Hark the Herald Angels and Silent Night…

Once you’ve got all of this sorted, all that’s left to do is leave your property sale or rental to us! We will ensure that just like the Harking Herald Angels, we will bring Glad tidings of great property joy and market your property effectively to prospective audiences. 

You’ll then be able to relax, sleep soundly and enjoy a Silent Night with the knowledge that “all is calm” and “all is bright” for your move in 2019!

Why not get in touch, or visit us in the Office to get ahead for marketing your property in 2019. Give us a call on 01727 221290 or 01442 230400.

From all of us here at Aubrey and Finn, we want to thank all those who have supported our business during 2018, and we look forward to serving St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and the local community in 2019!


28Nov

Here at Aubrey and Finn, like other Estate Agents you may meet, we love to help our clients buy, sell and rent their homes. However, we also like to recognise that we are a little different to other estate agents you may visit in the St Albans and Hemel Hempstead areas. Our premises have a unique, relaxed, café-style feel, there’s often music playing in the background and our resident doggy mascot Cricket, can often be found greeting our customers as they enter. 

Whilst we love our business set-up, we also recognise that we not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay! Perhaps we look a little too fresh-faced, or we don’t give off a corporate enough feel for an our industry, but as a business, we’re “doing” Estate Agency the way that we think works for us, and this will attract the kind of clients and customers who think we would be a good fit for them. 

We know that selling or renting out your property can be a very emotional and sometimes stressful time, and our clients rely on us to make the process go as smoothly as possible for them. That’s why it’s really important to be able to feel confident and trust in the abilities of your estate agent to be able to secure a successful sale or rental and a hassle-free completion to your transaction. 

It’s always helpful to shop around and consider a few different agents before instructing someone, so with this in mind, here are a few things to consider and questions to ask, when looking for a new Estate Agent:

1. What’s the best price you think is obtainable for my property and is this in-line with the local market picture?

Let’s face it; everyone normally wants the best possible price for their property, so it can be very tempting when an agent gives you an attractive proposition of what price they could secure for your property. However, this needs to be in-line with the market average, and shouldn’t be the deciding factor of who to place your property on the market with. You can also do your own research on portal websites to see what properties have been recently sold and rented for in your area. 

2. What is your Fee/Commission Structure?

As with the previous question, it’s not always advisable to choose your Estate Agent purely on a cost basis, but understanding the fees or commission structure which your estate agent charges is essential, so that you can work out your finances and consider the right agent to sell or rent your home, which works for you and your budget. 

3. How big is your team and who will be showing my property to prospective buyers/renters? 

It’s important to understand who your prospective buyers or renters will be meeting when they come to your home or property. Will it be the business owner or manager? Will it be the sales or lettings specialist? Will it be someone who is part-time and works remotely, a Saturday person, or will you be expected to show the property yourself? Knowing who will be showing your property and more importantly, how well they will know your property, the area it is situated in and the circumstances behind the sale are so important. In bigger agencies, with lots of properties on their books, it may be that the person the Estate Agent sends never visits the same property twice, or is unfamiliar with the quirks or layout your property has. 

4. How long are properties on the market with you on average?

Some properties are so attractive perhaps due to location, price or school catchment area that they quite literally fly off the shelf, and we often help to create a demand around them to get the best possible price or rental situation for them. 

Others may be wonderful, but just not what the consumer is looking for at the moment and can take a little longer to sell or rent, but it’s what the estate agent is doing to help the process along which is important. Estate agents should be able to tell you the stats on their average sale or rental, and also the qualitative information around those stats too. 

5. What’s your knowledge of the local area like?

Your estate agent often needs to be able to answer the myriad of questions about the area your property is situated in including the local property market picture, transport links, school catchment areas, parking situation for the property, whether the property is leasehold/freehold, and many more, so it’s important that you feel confident in their abilities to be able to answer these questions.

6. What communication methods do you use? 

The way that your Estate Agent communicates should be in-line with how you communicate. Do you know that we still know some estate agents and solicitors who will ONLY communicate by letter? Finding out how you can communicate with your estate agent, whether you will have one central point of contact, when they are available and how you can get through to them (phone/email/text) is very important for a smooth communication process. 

Find out how you can interact with your estate during the transaction. Will you have one point of contact? Can you reach them via email or do you need to call them? What hours are they available? Do they offer a 24 hour service for any rental issues? This may determine who the best Estate Agents will be for you.

7. How long am I tied into my contract for, what’s the cooling off period, and what are the penalties for moving to another agency?

This question is a really important one to ask as it’s crucial to know, if things go downhill with your agent, how long it will be before you can get out of your agreement if things aren’t working. 

All too often, we have people come to us when things aren’t working with other agents, and we are unable to help them, because they are locked into such watertight contracts, which mean that they will incur huge penalties if they instruct us to market their property, so it’s essential to know how long it will be before you can get out of the contract you have committed to if you need to, and also what the cancellation period is, if you quickly realise that things aren’t working in the early days of instruction. 

8. How will my property be marketed? 

Take a look at the way that your prospective estate agent is currently marketing other properties. Most agents worth their salt will place your property onto portal sites like Rightmove, but what else are they doing? Are they taking photos which portray your home in the best light, are they sending out your property’s details to their database, are they including it in printed literature or marketing it on social media? What are the other methods they will use? Are these in-line with who you think would be a great buyer or rentor?

9. Who are you regulated by? How can you prove great customer service? 

This brings in the trust element of your transaction. Who can you contact if things go wrong? Does the estate agent subscribe to a regulator? Does the estate agency have credible customer testimonials you can view online, or have they won any awards which are testament to their credibility within the industry? Your estate agent should be able to give you examples of regulatory bodies, happy customers and great customer service to help you to make your decision. 

10. Are there any other options that you think would work for our situation?

When considering how to make an income out of your property, it can sometimes pay to think outside of the box! We are the only agent in St Albans and Hemel offering our Airbnb management service, which can often bring in 30% more per year than a rental income and retains the property for you to use when you want to. If you may still want to live in your property, or perhaps keep it for its location, then we can help you to consider whether other options may work – such as retaining your family home and getting a second mortgage to rent another property, or renting your property out through Airbnb so that you can still live in it. Always ask your agent whether they think that the option you are pursuing is the best one for your situation. 

Ultimately, asking the questions above (and these aren’t exhaustive) should enable you to gain enough information to build up a good picture of the Estate Agents who will best be a good fit for you, and your property, taking into account your preferred communication methods, values and beliefs and also importantly, your budget too. 

Of course we would love to be the Agents to help you or your friends and family to sell or rent property locally, so if you are thinking of selling or renting out your property either in the short or longer term and would be interested in a free, no obligation quote, then please do get in touch with us at the office. We can also offer local free advice on the property market, so even if it’s just a question you have, please do feel free to pick up the phone or pop in and see us!