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5 ways tenants looking to rent can stand out against strong competition

Think you’ve found your perfect home, but worry someone else will snap it up? Here’s how to give yourself an edge over the competition.

Competition for rental properties is strong in many areas, and there are signs it’s also been affecting prices.

In the year leading up to January 2022, UK rental prices accelerated at their fastest annual pace since 2017, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

So if you’ve found your perfect place to live, how can you make yourself stand out to the landlord or lettings agency?

Here are some tips from Chris Hutchinson, CEO of rental platform Canopy (canopy.rent), to help boost your chances…

1. Be prepared

Making an offer on a rental property often means filling out a written application.

Hutchinson says: “Having all the paperwork and information prepared will show the landlord you are organised, and help build a strong first impression.”

Make sure you have all the necessary references and payslips in good order.

2. Present yourself well

Being punctual, polite and conscientious could go a long way when viewing a rental property.

Hutchinson says: “You are trying to show the landlord you are dependable – and it also never hurts to offer to take your shoes off when you enter the property.”

3. Ask good questions

“Asking about bin collection, for example, will show you are thinking about keeping the property clean,” Hutchinson suggests.

4. Offer something extra

If competition is strong for a particular property, the landlord may find it difficult to distinguish between applicants.

Hutchinson says: “Offering to sign a longer lease may also help, but this can vary from landlord to landlord – it won’t hurt to ask the question.”

But he does recommend caution, in case this causes your landlord “to expect more in the future”.

5. Be quick

The longer a property is left standing empty without tenants, the longer the landlord goes without receiving any rental income.

If you are satisfied the property you’ve viewed is the one for you, Hutchinson suggests: “Don’t dawdle, ask to fill out a rental application.

“This will also help to limit the competition, as landlords generally won’t want to have too many applications to filter through before choosing their new tenant.”

13 ways to style up your outdoor space for spring entertaining

It’s not too soon to be thinking about getting your garden or patio ready for warmer weather, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

With spring collections landing at a rapid rate, now’s the time to up your garden game.

Consider key pieces to create a chic corner for al fresco entertaining or chilling by yourself, perhaps an outdoor sofa to sprawl out on with a cheeky cocktail come the first heatwave and signs of summer.

It’s safe to say we’ve acquired quite a taste for outdoor living after a turbulent two years, and styling up a suntrap or precious piece of green lawn rewards in so many ways. Especially with barbecue season coming into swing, not to mention get-togethers on a grander scale back on the cards.

Looking for a refresh? These top finds would all do the job nicely…

1. George Home Natural Novaro Egg Chair, £249, direct.asda.com

The easiest way to kick-start your patio prowess is with a statement piece – and egg chairs are where it’s at this summer. Think self-gift seating for relaxing and unwinding. With a trendy wicker finish and comfy cushions, mix this one with greenery and terracotta pots to complete the look.

2. Habitat Kora 2-Seater Egg Bench – Natural, £440, Habitat

Alternatively, double the pleasure with room for two.

3. Habitat 2-Seater Bar Bistro Set, £250, Habitat

Staying with the rattan theme, this stylish table with matching bar stools can be accessorised with faux fur chair throws while it’s still chilly, or colourful cotton throws for a boutique-y hotel look when you’re serving spritzes and nibbles.

“We’ve seen demand for bistro sets grow steadily each year, as customers embrace café culture in their outdoor spaces,” says Rachael Fell, furniture buying manager at Habitat. “Suitable for compact areas as well as larger settings, these styles are ideal for renters looking to move furniture from home to home.”

4. Coyle Square 2–Person 80cm Long Dining Set by Corrigan Studio, £309.99, Wayfair

As Nadia McCowan Hill, Wayfair’s resident style advisor put its: “A relaxed atmosphere can be achieved however big or small the garden get-togethers are, with the right seating and accessories. As a starting point, think about what kind of entertaining you’re going to do most of. This will ensure the garden furniture chosen gets maximum use.”

With this in mind, you can’t go wrong with this lightweight dining set, which will look just as well in a kitchen or sunroom and can easily be transported outside.

5. Fire Pit AFTONFALK (D58 x H23cm) Black, £40, JYSK

For a quick fix, a budget-friendly outdoor fire pit combines ambience and function with its warm glow, plus it’s a brilliant focal point.

6. John Lewis & Partners 4-seat Lounging Set, £999 (available late March); ANYDAY Sky Jute Rug, from £140; cushions from a selection, John Lewis

For a Mediterranean style vibe, there’s nothing like a low-slung sofa and simple coffee table with short legs, with scattered cushions and natural jute rugs. Summer straw hats pinned on walls make a great final touch.

7. Helsinki Corner Dining Set, £1,250, Next

Meanwhile, this contemporary corner sofa seats eight, and comes with two low-slung stools and dining table with wood effect top. Large terracotta pots and containers spilling out with trailing plants and flowers will inspire happy thoughts of faraway places.

8. Glyndebourne Reusable Picnic Dinner Plates, £8 each, and Bowls, £7 each, Glyndebourne Shop

A classy choice for al fresco dining and in tune with dove grey dining schemes, this pretty pattern’s based on Glyndebourne’s Organ Room ceiling design, where opera singers first performed.

9. John Lewis & Partners Salsa Round Garden Coffee Table (70cm), Two Tone Yellow, £149, other items from a selection, John Lewis

A fun way to funk up an existing sofa set is with a pop of colour and a coffee table in a bold shade, especially if it’s sunshine yellow like this one. Come the day, a jug of sangria or Buck’s Fizz will taste even more uplifting and delicious.

10. Cream Canvas Hanging Chair, £39, direct.asda.com

There’s something about this hanging chair that ticks all our ‘must buy’ boxes. We love the boho fringe and nod to macramé.

11. CosmoLiving by Cosmopolitan Taura Resin Rope Lounge Chair – Grey, £199, Freemans

Ideal for a small balcony or petite patio, this lounge chair will fit neatly into a tight space and looks so inviting with its round frame and padded seat. Try making even more of the look by painting an exterior wall in mauve pink for extra impact.

12. RANGSTRUP D110 + 4 PANDUMBRO Nature table and chairs set, currently £269.99 (was £339.95), JYSK

No matter where you decide to place accent pieces, you can’t go wrong with a round table and wicker dining chairs, which can be tucked underneath when not in use. And to help you make the most of your space, Rikke Blaeside, design and range manager at JYSK, says to try layering various types of outdoor lighting to add depth to the garden.

“Solar lamps will provide a subtle light throughout the evening and are perfect for dotting within flowerbeds or plant pots to light up pockets of your garden; trail string lights along a fence or pergola, and elevate the look with lanterns to ensure a warm glow.”

13. GAMMELBY Grey Chairs, £199.99 each, table from a selection, JYSK

For more seating inspiration, these wicker-look chairs channel texture to beautiful effect and will complement larger sized tables.

5 easy lunch-break updates for a 60-minute makeover in your home

These quick fixes are cost-effective and can be done in less than an hour, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Short on time but big on style?

Want to make some home improvements without getting bogged down with a DIY project you may live to regret? Or just fancy a fast fling with a drill, paintbrush or tired piece of furniture?

These small tweaks and bijoux projects can change the feel of your home and breathe new life into your furnishings, four walls, windows, and generally help clean up your act.

Indeed, some are so bite-sized, you’ll still have time for a quick snack…

1. Give outdated cabinetry an upgrade

“Switching out your standard handles for something more luxe can transform an inexpensive kitchen, to one that feels stylish and bespoke, says Jenna Choate, co-founder of Interior Fox.

Easier than you might think, Choate says they usually come in a standard size, which means the handles and hinges can be unscrewed and replaced using the existing screw. “Warm up the finishes with brass, or opt for matt-black for a contemporary look that feels sleek and modern.”

Depending on your budget, along with online shopping sites such as Amazon, check out Plank Hardware, who have a great selection of door knobs in brass, matt black, satin nickel, pink and blue, which can be paired with their door handle collection.

Suitable for kitchen cabinets, drawers and dressers, prices start from as little as £6.95 (per knob), and come with M4 4 x 25mm machine screws for easy installation.

2. Add open shelving to a blank wall

“There are some quick and simple ways to update your kitchen that won’t require much time, budget or skill,” suggests Choate. “If you’re looking for a way to bring a sense of style into a bare kitchen, consider adding open shelving to a blank wall.

“Use this area to stack artisanal bowls and cups, as well as your favourite jugs, or decant dry goods into glass storage jars and canisters, from pasta and rice, to nuts or spices. The key thing here is to not over clutter the space, keep the items to a minimum for a look that feels both practical and stylish.”

3. Add some extra wow-factor to windows with a decorative film

Whether you’re living in the home of your dreams or are a first-time buyer, not all of us are lucky enough to have a room with a view.

It might be light and bright, but if there’s a tiny snag when you look out, a decorative window film could be the answer, such as this Feathers Printed Window Film, priced from £11.50, Purlfrost.

“Made-to-measure and assembled in minutes, this easy update offers complete privacy to onlooking neighbours and a fuss-free alternative to sheers or shutters,” says Joanna Baumard, co-founder of Purlfrost.

“With a wide choice of designs to choose from, you can really let your personality shine through,” says Baumard. “Opt for a bold floral or abstract pattern to create a design statement, or for those looking for something a little more understated, a delicate frosted design.”

Easy to apply in minutes, they send detailed instructions and a tool kit with each order, making it as simple and stress-free as possible. “You’ll be amazed how easy this DIY job is and how it completely revamps any room in the house in just a few minutes,” she adds.

4. Re-arrange your book shelves

You don’t need to be a bookworm to get the ‘bookshelves look’ but it helps. Otherwise, charity shops are great hunting ground and will add some bookish appeal to forgotten corners of the room, or create a wonder wall with statement shelving.

As Kelly Collins, interior designer and head of creative at Swyft points out: “Bookshelves are becoming an interior design staple. Versatile, customisable and cheap, they are a great way to inject a bit of extra personality into your home.

“If your home needs a revamp, or you’re simply changing up your interiors, a quick lunch-time job is rearranging their decor. It might seem simple, but there’s so much to be done with the contents of your shelves.”

For a calming, organised appearance, she says to colour code your books. “This is a Pinterest-inspired decor tip that makes your shelving unit look cohesive, yet playful.

“Alternatively, move your ornaments around, playing with placement and position. If you have something you particularly like, choose this as the focal point and build your design around it.”

5. Be creative with colour and broaden you paint prowess

We all know a lick of paint can do wonders for our interiors. But how about painting something that’s special to you? That little jolt of happiness when you paint the inside of a wardrobe housing your favourite frocks, or painting something you’ve salvaged from a skip, can make all the difference.

A great go-to is Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint (from £23.95 per litre) which can be applied to most surfaces – wood, metal, laminate – for a velvety matt finish without the hassle of priming or sanding, so saving time with brilliant results.

For a lustrous finish – save this for another lunch hour – top your Chalk Paint brushstrokes with her Pearlescent Glaze (from £13.95 for 250ml) for a lovely, light reflecting shimmer.

Also, try switching up your colour scheme to brights or pretty pastels. YesColours is a brand new eco paint company with fully recyclable packaging sold from one litre pouches, priced £21, so easy to handle for small jobs.

Or think timeless and calming, aka sage green – the new neutral in the world of interiors.

“Sage greens, beiges and greys are a great way to bring the outside in, and with a combined monthly search volume of nearly 200k, you’ll be right on trend for 2022,” says Jo Winston, sales director at St Modwen Homes.

“Plus, grabbing your paintbrushes is a relatively quick and simple option if you’re looking for a refresh.”

5 easy ways to work the Seventies trend at home

Go groovy with your decor, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

A decade defined by disco music, eye-catching prints, a colour scheme of browns, oranges and greens and shot of glamour for good measure, the Seventies certainly captured our attention.

And we’re still feeling the love – so much so that designers continue to be inspired by the 1970s, reviving the look with a range of ideas to fire the imagination.

There’s a sense of fun when we reconnect with this decade’s trademark palette of brights, as well as the feelgood factor of nature (house plants were one of the hottest trends at the time), and there’s good reason key pieces such as vintage chairs, lava lamps and eclectic homewares have never lost their appeal.

Here’s how to rock the Seventies vibe at home…

1. Play up patterns and prints

“The 70Seventies was such a ground-breaking era in interior design and it still inspires us today,” says Rachael Doble, co-founder of Carmine Lake. “For an instant injection of Seventies glam, a feature wall in a 1970s-inspired design will score plenty of style points.

“Make sure it has a strong, distinctive print and a palette of browns, oranges and reds for maximum impact.”

Abbas Youssefi, director of Porcelain Superstore, agrees: “Seventies interior style was all about statement patterns in strong, earthy colours. Our Sunset Astro pays homage to the 1970s vibe, with the red and terracotta shades exuding warmth.

“For maximum impact, use these rich tiles to create a striking splashback, while keeping the rest of the kitchen relatively simple.”

2. Rally retro accessories

Market finds – such as boho-chic rattan and leather swivel chairs – are easy ways to introduce the look, if and when you can track them down.

Otherwise, online shopping sites such as Etsy and Ebay are good hunting-ground for things like wicker and teak furniture, retro glass vases and – love it or loathe it – the lava lamp.

“A simple but extremely effective way to introduce 1970s style to your home is with statement lighting, a trend we’re seeing for 2022,” notes Etsy trend expert, Dayna Isom Johnson. “I also like vintage wall prints, which is an inexpensive way to experiment with adding Seventies flair to your home without much commitment.”

Meanwhile, Molly Pusey, vice-president of supply at Fy! describes the Seventies trend as bringing a touch of luxe and nostalgia, especially with a retro colour palette of terracotta orange, aqua tones and rich greens.

“Opt for mid-century furniture pieces and add a contemporary edge with velvet textiles and contrasting textures,” says Pusey. “Finish with the warm glow of a mushroom lamp for a sense of vintage glamour.”

3. Hang house plants aplenty

Whether its with macramé or a glittering disco ball, stringing and hanging your plants is a stylish way to work the Seventies’ take on greenery in the home.

Plus it’s a space-saving way of bringing the leafy world inside, as you won’t need to worry about running out of room on shelves and cabinet tops.

4. It’s cool to colour-clash

“The Seventies were defined by the bold sound of the funk era. The music was rich and brazen and really made you stop in your tracks to listen,” says Chris Bond, director at The Rug Retailer.

“From an interiors perspective, for me 1970s style is all about capturing the excitement and confidence of the funk movement, so strong colours and shapes are an absolute must. And don’t be afraid of clashing hues too – the more the merrier.”

Try mixing and matching your furniture, rather than sticking with variations of the same shade in a room. Or, adding pops of clashing colours in accessories – or a bold, geometric rug – is a quick way to get the look.

5. Flaunt your flower-power

Think cosmic blooms in sunshine yellow and other happy brights. Going bold with pops of pretty petals will make everything look fresh and modern, and you can always work the wicker look in the form of lampshades and shelving, or a sweet bedside table.

Also, be on the lookout for crochet wall hangings (Aldi currently has a Crafty Crochet Wall Hanging Kit for £5.99, if you fancy giving it a go yourself). Another key find is a vintage sunburst wall clock – a prime example of why 1970s style stands the test of time.

How to realistically build a savings pot, as household bills rocket

Nearly a third of people say they have no emergency savings, according to a new survey. By Vicky Shaw.

With household bills shooting upwards, the temptation to dip into emergency savings pots to cover day-to-day living costs becomes stronger. Soaring living costs also makes it harder to have any spare cash left over to put into a ‘rainy-day’ savings fund, that can be tapped into if the worst happens.

Nearly a third (31%) have no emergency savings, according to a new survey from Paragon Bank. Among those without an emergency fund to rely on, the majority (61%) say they are not in a position to save either.

The next most popular reason given for not having a rainy-day savings pot was that people are saving towards other goals. Just over one in 10 (11%) meanwhile feel they do not need an emergency savings pot, and 10% are not prioritising saving.

Among those regularly adding into their savings pots, the average amount saved each month per household was found to be £293, with men saving more than women typically.

The survey also looked at where people had placed any savings they had made during the pandemic.

More than half (57%) used a savings account, while more than a third (35%) piled excess cash in their current account. Men were significantly more likely to leave savings in a current account, with 40% of men reporting this to be the case, versus 29% of women. One in 10 (11%) had invested savings in the stock market.

Derek Sprawling, savings director at Paragon Bank, says: “As a general guideline, we’d advise people to save up enough money to cover at least three months’ expenses.”

Struggling to save? For those looking to build an emergency savings pot but struggling to have much to cash to save, here are some tips…

1. Use ’round ups’ to regularly save small amounts

Autosaving apps may round up your spending to the nearest pound and automatically put it into a savings account. It might be baby steps but it all adds up over time. These apps may also help calculate how much you can afford to save regularly, and automatically move the money into savings.

MoneySavingExpert.com has more information about these apps and how they work (moneysavingexpert.com/savings/auto-saving-apps).

2. Make the most of current account switching offers

Some current account providers are offering big amounts of cash to switch. The money could be used to kick-start a savings habit. For example, Santander recently launched a new £140 cashback offer to eligible customers who switch to a Santander current account and First Direct is offering £150 to switchers. NatWest is also offering £150 to customers who switch their main current account.

Switching is straightforward when using the Current Account Switch Service (Cass).

3. Cut your household bills

You could try to create some ‘spare’ money that can be put into savings by shopping around and haggling with service providers. For example, Which? recently found that households could potentially make significant savings by haggling with their broadband provider.

It asked people whose contracts had ended on their mobile, their broadband or their broadband and TV package whether they had haggled or switched. Nearly half (46%) had haggled with their existing provider when their contract ended. They reported saving an average £85 on broadband, £128 on broadband and TV and £35 on mobile bills. A fifth (19%) had switched away to another provider, saving an average £35 on broadband, £65 on broadband and TV and £40 on mobile bills.

4. Don’t leave money sitting where it is earning little or zero interest

If you’re trying to build up an emergency savings pot, you’ll want to put it in an account where you can access it quickly if needed. While rates on cash savings may fall far short of the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate of inflation, currently at 5.4%, it’s still worth checking out the ‘best buy’ savings products, to help limit the damage caused by surging living costs.

If you have some money that can stay put for the long-term, you could consider a stocks and shares Isa. This could produce bigger returns over the longer term than leaving the money in cash, although there is the risk that the value of your pot could go down as well as up.

5. Saving for your first home? Consider a Lifetime Isa

With house prices having rocketed recently, first-time buyers face spending at least six times their annual wages to get on the property ladder in nearly half (45%) of Britain’s local authority areas, according to recent research from Nationwide Building Society.

Lifetime Isas can help aspiring first-time buyers to build up a savings pot more quickly than they would have been able to otherwise. You must be 18 or over but under 40 to open a Lifetime Isa and you can put in up to £4,000 per year. A 25% bonus will be added to your savings, up to a maximum of £1,000 per year.

Romantic homewares: A dozen darling ways to win hearts at home

Home is where the heart is, after all. By Sam Wylie-Harris.

Whether you’re staying in or going out, Valentine’s Day celebrations begin at home – so why not make it a day to remember with a special pressie to pimp up their pad, or yours?

A desirable display, sexy seating, a little love message, or something sweet or super-groovy is where it’s at in the loved-up world of interiors.

Here’s what’s on the hot list and pulling our heartstrings right now…

1. George Home Body Vase, £12, Direct.asda.com

With its curvaceous body and attractive silhouette, this va-va-voom vase will bring a smile, with or without a bouquet.

2. Silver Valentine’s Rose, £24, Engravers Guild of London

Who wouldn’t want to wake up with an everlasting rose on their pillow? Plated in sterling silver, a gift box and engraving are included.

3. Retro Cursive Love Embroidered Cushion Pink/Coral, £45, Stripy Heart Embroidered Cushion Pinks, £49.50 (others from a selection), Bombay Duck

Pop art and pom-poms – a magic combo. These stylish slogan cushions can be scattered here, there and everywhere.

4. Ola Dusty Pink Velvet Tub Chair, £495, Oliver Bonas

This glamorous cocktail chair is perfect for posing. Cheeky Cosmopolitan cocktail optional.

5. Pink Round Bedside Rug with Red Heart, £32, Rockett St George

Flirty and fluffy, even Cupid would be lovestruck with this attention-grabbing rug.

6. Twist Candle Pink, £26, Monday

Pretty in pink, this handmade decorative double-act is almost too good to light, and oh-so fun to look at.

7. Darling! Heart Trinket Dish Darling Rose, and Heart Trinket Dish Lovely Aqua, £9.50 each, Bombay Duck

Whether for knick-knacks, baubles or bon-bons, shout it loud with these neat novelty dishes.

8. Midas Kiss Gold Lips Planter, £49.95, Antique Gold Peace Hand Vase, £36, Ribbed Martini Cocktail Glasses – Set of 4, £44, Anouk Red Velvet and Rattan Armchair, £575 (other items from a selection), Audenza

It’s bound to be love at first sight with this decadent red velvet accent chair, which channels glam Seventies nightclub vibes. However, if it’s a little over budget, the gold lips planter deserves a date-night kiss.

9. Pyramid Glasses Poster, currently from £9.72 (was from £14.95, frame not included), Desenio

With rosé champagne on the cards, this funky poster is the perfect backdrop for loved-up selfies or styling a romantic corner for celebratory cocktails.

10. Peony Blooming Marvellous Mug, from £12.50, Sophie Allport

A sweet way to show your feelings, peonies symbolise love, happiness and good fortune.

11. STAR by Julien Macdonald Lyra Mirrored 2 Drawer Dressing Table, £259, Dressing Table Mirror, £129, Mirrored Stool, £129, Feathered Shade Brushed Gold Table Lamp, £67 (was £99), Freemans

This dazzling dressing table set has a sprinkling of Hollywood stardust, especially with its mirrors and silver detailing, matching velvet stool and feather table lamp to set their heart aflutter. Fabulous.

12. Peachskin Quilted Bedspread in Petal Pink, £98 (other items from a selection), The French Bedroom Company

And so to bed… This beautiful bedspread in soft pink can be styled up with romantic ruffle pillows for maximum impact. Plus its mid-weight, so suits most seasons and drapes like a dream. Bliss.

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