5 Top Tips For Being A Happier Renter

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Nobody dreams of renting a house forever - but if this is the situation you're in, you may as well make the most of it, says Abi Jackson.

Whether you’re a fully-fledged member of Generation Rent, or a family for whom the property ladder is still a step out of reach, renting can sometimes feel frustrating.

It’s your home – except, well, it’s not really, is it? Somebody else is the boss of it, which – while there are some pros to this – means there are plenty of less than ideal cons, too.

But, as somebody who’s been renting for two decades, I’ve learnt (often the hard way) that there are certain things you can do to help make living as a rent-paying tenant the best it can possibly be.

Here are my five top tips…

  1. Be on good terms with your landlord/letting agent

When you’re looking for a place to rent, remember you’re vetting the people you’ll be renting with/from, as much as the property itself. Mutual trust and respect, and an ability to communicate, will count towards a lot.

There might be times when things go wrong and need to be fixed, fast. A broken toilet/tap/boiler, for instance. The good thing is, where a plumbing disaster due to wear-and-tear or technical issues is concerned (or any similar scenario), your landlord will be picking up the bill. The sometimes not so good thing is, you’ll be relying on a third party to sort things out. Now, this doesn’t automatically mean you’ve got a headache on your hands, but it might be a bit of a nuisance – and you’ll be doing yourself a big favour if you get on good communication terms with your landlord/letting agent from day one, rather than waiting until something ‘goes wrong’ to make contact.

  1. Streamline, streamline, streamline

It’s often said that our European cousins are much better at the whole renting game than us, being far more likely to rent their ‘forever home’, while us UK renters might find ourselves moving a lot (I stopped counting at 13), and it sucks. The good thing though? You’ll get so sick of packing and unpacking and losing money to removal vans (and cramming all your worldly belongings into one small bedroom, if you’re sharing a house), you’ll reach a point where you just don’t care for ‘stuff’ any more. Marie Kondo ain’t got nothing on me: I saw the light after move number 11 and waved goodbye to clutter for good. Do yourself a favour and get strict about the ‘stuff’ you let into your life. The next move will be a lot easier and, without even really trying, you’ll be living a less consumerist lifestyle – and will have more money to spend on experiences (tick, tick, tick).

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  1. Give yourself reasons to get out of the house

Live in a shared house? No matter how great your housemates are, there will be times when you desperately wish you could afford your own place. Plus, self-comparison is part of the human condition, and if there are moments of mild (or severe) despair, when you’re wondering how you’ve not managed to bag that mortgage yet, while everyone around you is upgrading their kitchen – you’re not alone. Until that day comes for you, though, you need to make the best of the situation you’re in now – and embracing life outside your four walls can play a big part in this. Make dates with friends, join a club, go for walks, volunteer in your local community (no seriously, try it). Your life will be richer, your mental wellbeing will benefit, and you’ll find yourself seething about coming home to an already-occupied sofa a lot less.

  1. Make your bed king

You might not own the bed frame, or the walls around it – but that does not mean you don’t own the right to a decent night’s sleep. Good sleep is the foundation of so many thing (your health, your work performance, your overall zest for life and all the people in it) – so prioritise it and do your best to make it happen. Renting doesn’t have to mean putting up with a crap, wafer-thin mattress or not-quite-right bedding. If your landlord doesn’t feel the same way, save up and invest in the best mattress you can afford (it’ll be some of the best money you’ve ever spent), and a pillow you look forward to sinking your head into every night. Treat yourself to some fabulous bed linen too; as far as ‘home purchases’ go, you can pick up some great designs at reasonable prices, and you’ll get way more pleasure from it than a TV upgrade.

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  1. Find ways to get personal

One of the most frequently-cited phrases among us long-term renters: ‘I just want to be able to hang whatever pictures I want on the walls!’ There’s a general assumption that landlords don’t want tenants to make their house too much of a home (by banging nails into walls, that sort of thing). Have you actually asked your landlord about this though? There’s no harm in asking.

Even if nails are out, there are lots of other ways you can personalise a space without permanently affecting the actual walls or structure. Get creative and remember that little touches can make a big difference. Everybody needs some home comforts, even if it’s just a throw from Matalan, a few coloured utensils in the kitchen that feel more like ‘you’, or a stack of books on the coffee table that light a spark every time your eye catches them. You may not be putting down permanent roots in this property, but right now, it’s home – so don’t underestimate the importance of making it feel that way.

If you want to find our more information about renting through McCarthy Holden, then call the lettings team on 01252 622550 or follow https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/letting/ 

Almost the price of a house

btw i8 photo

With the average house price in the UK being around £226,000, the luxury car market appears to be going in a similar upwards direction.

Jack Evans, Press Association motoring correspondent road tests the new BMW i8 Roadster, which is thought to have a guide price around £136,000.

The drop-top version of BMW’s instantly recognisable hybrid sports car is now on sale. Jack Evans heads out to Valencia to see what it’s like.

What is it?

That’s right, it’s finally here. After years of teasers, reveals and promises, we’re finally behind the wheel of the BMW i8 Roadster. A soft-top version of the iconic hybrid sports car, the Roadster is aimed at those who want the wind in their hair when piloting one of the most futuristic looking vehicles available.

It’s also able to offer genuinely low running costs and emits next to nothing, but can that help the i8 Roadster to top the bill when it comes to performance drop-tops? Let’s find out.

What’s new?

The biggest change here is, of course, the lack of a roof. BMW has whipped off the i8’s top and, because of its predominantly carbon-fibre underbody, it hasn’t had to laden the car down with additional strengthening.

That means the Roadster’s weight stays down, and as a result it’s just 60kg heavier than its hard-top brethren. The roof mechanism itself is clever too, taking just 15 seconds to raise or lower at speeds of up to 31mph. The exterior of the car has also been lightly breathed upon to freshen its looks, though we’ll come to those in more depth later.

What’s under the bonnet?

The i8 Roadster makes use of exactly the same powertrain as the regular i8, so you’ll find a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine linked to an electric motor. The combustion engine powers the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor powers the front wheels through a two-speed automatic ‘box.

BMW has also increased the car’s battery cell capacity, so while you still get 369bhp and 570Nm of torque, the Roadster can still travel up to 33 miles on electric power alone. Both units combine to offer the best performance possible, with the electric motor filling in the gaps of the petrol’s power delivery. Thanks to this, 0-60mph takes just 4.4 seconds, and it can a top speed of 155mph too.

What’s it like to drive?

Usually when converting a regular hardtop into a convertible, you’d expect a significant penalty to the way the car drives. Lopping the roof off usually requires additional bracing to stop the car from flexing too much, and this adds weight, therefore blunting the vehicle’s performance. However, as we mentioned, the i8 Roadster hasn’t suffered too much with the conversion, with a negligible amount of weight added. This means that it steers just as keenly as the Coupe, and manages the weight it does have impressively well through the corners.

Push the i8 Roadster a little harder and it does fall into understeer, the front tyres scrubbing wide with little effort. We’d also like the brakes to be sharper; currently they feel underpowered and vague, leaving you guessing as to how much pedal force you need apply at any given moment.

btw i8 photo

How does it look?

The regular i8 still looks like nothing else on the road, despite having been around for some time now. The Roadster, in our eyes at least, looks even better – particularly in the ‘E-Copper’ colour our test car was finished in. The bubbles behind driver and passenger have been accentuated, giving it the look of a 1950’s racer, while the two-tone alloy wheels fitted to our test car stood out too.

The front of the car has benefited from some additional design touches too. There are revised air ducts finished in gloss black, while the headlight’s look has been updated as well. It’s still the i8 motoring fans know and love, just turned up a little bit more.

What’s it like inside?

The i8 Roadster’s interior remains largely unchanged over the Coupes, though it does benefit from the addition of a few new colour and material combinations. It’s still a well-made place to be, albeit one that is starting to feel its age a touch now; the screen, though clear, isn’t quite as pin-sharp as rival systems while the multifunction steering wheel hasn’t got the features you’ll find on other current BMWs.

The Roadster, does however, have practicality on its side. Though soft-tops are usually the less spacious option, this i8 packs more luggage space than its hard-top stablemate. In fact, you’ll find 188 litres of storage space in the Roadster – close to 35 litres more than the Coupe.

What’s the spec like?

Prices for the i8 Roadster start at £124,735, there’s plenty of equipment included as part of that base price. You get 20-inch alloy wheels, for instance, and full leather upholstery too, while a suite of safety assistance systems such as forward collision warning, city collision mitigation and high beam assistant all help to keep the Roadster as safe as possible.

It can be easy to ramp up the car’s price however. Apple CarPlay, for instance, is a £235 optional extra – which seems a little mean given it is standard on the majority of hatchbacks currently on sale today. Our test car weighed in at a hefty £135,075, with options such as LaserLight headlights (£5,100) contributing to its rather chunky price tag.

Verdict

BMW already claims that the Roadster will outsell the Coupe three to one – and we’d we can already see that being the case. There’s little reason why you wouldn’t go for the soft top; it’s quick, great to look at and its roof mechanism is simple and easy to use. The hybrid powertrain keeps running costs to a minimum, yet despite there’s a whole lot of performance accessible under your right foot. It’s an impressive car alright, and one you’d likely never tire of driving.

Facts at a glance

  • Model as tested: BMW i8 Roadster
  • Price: £135,810 (E171,390)
  • Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol linked to electric motor
  • Power: 369bhp
  • Torque (Nm): 570Nm
  • Max speed (mph): 155
  • 0-60mph: 4.4
  • MPG: 141.9
  • Emissions (g/km): 46

Footnote: Alternatively, at McCarthy Holden why not search for a fine property investment.

8 Reasons To Get Solar Panels On Your Home

house with solar panels

Could your property value be enhanced and the house become more saleable be with the benefit of solar panels and reduced energy bills? Putting property values top one side, in this article by Lisa Salmon (Press Association), she examines some good reasons to consider a solar panel installation.

Sunlight is free, so why not harness its energy through solar panels on your home?

Most people would love to save money on their domestic energy bills, and the summer is the ideal time to do it.

And that’s not just because you don’t need the heating on. It’s because all that sunlight is producing huge amounts of energy, which can be harnessed if you have solar panels on your home.

While a decade ago solar energy provided virtually no power, around 840,000 homes in the UK now have solar panels – also known as photovoltaics (PV) – and the renewable energy source regularly generates around a fifth of the country’s electricity for hours on summer days. The spell of hot, dry summer weather has helped break several solar power-generation records, and recently even very briefly eclipsed gas power stations, as the UK’s top source of electricity.

However, the solar energy boom may already have reached it’s peak, as solar panel installations have flatlined recently because financial incentives for householders to get them installed have been slashed dramatically, and will stop completely next year with no sign of a replacement scheme.

But green campaigners desperately want solar power to keep its foothold in the energy market, and point out there are still many reasons to consider installing solar panels on homes.

property roof with solar panel

1 Solar panels can save you money

The Energy Saving Trust (EST), an independent consumer body which helps householders and businesses save energy, says the amount saved depends on several factors – where your home is, what direction your roof faces, how big a system you install, when you install it, and how much of the energy produced you’re able to use yourself. For a typical 4kW system in the south of England, you could make around £275 a year in feed-in tariff generation payments and export payments.

Use the EST’s online Solar Energy Calculator (energysavingtrust.org.uk) to assess what financial benefits you may get from installing a solar PV system.

You’ll also save on electricity bills, says the EST. The amount you save depends on how much energy you use in a day when your solar panels are generating energy. If you’re usually out all day, you’ll only save around £90 a year on your bills. However, if you tend to be at home, you could save around £220 a year. Including the benefits from tariffs, this would give you a total saving of around £365-£495, depending on your lifestyle.

Caitlin Bent, home energy expert for the EST, says: “Solar panels are most suited to people who are at home a lot during the day, who can really take advantage of using free electricity when the sun is shining.”

2 You get paid for energy you produce

As well as saving on electricity bills, you can make money in two other ways with solar panels. Firstly, through the feed-in tariff, you’re paid for every unit of energy you generate. The feed-in tariff will close to new applicants in April 2019, although payments will continue for 20 years from the date of installation for those who invest in solar panels before April.

Secondly, you can make money via the export tariff, through which you’re paid for any energy you don’t use but send back to the grid. However, because export isn’t metered for domestic properties, the government assumes you’ll export 50% of the energy you produce. This means regardless of how much you use, you’ll be paid for 50% of your generation.

3 You’re helping to save the planet

Solar electricity is green renewable energy, meaning it doesn’t release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants. A typical home solar PV system could save around 1.2 to 1.7 tonnes of carbon per year. The EST says: “By generating clean, green electricity you reduce your home’s carbon emissions. Plus, any solar energy you don’t use will be fed into the grid, so it can be used by someone else.”

4 Costs have fallen

A typical 4kW solar PV system now costs around £5,500 – £6,800 on average, according to government figures. When the feed-in tariffs began in 2010, costs were as high as £12,000-£14,000.

5 You can store solar energy on batteries

Batteries can now be purchased by householders to enable them to consume rather than export their solar electricity, which makes more financial sense.

6 It’s possible to use solar tiles if you prefer

Solar tiles are designed to be used in place of ordinary roof tiles. However, a system of solar tiles will typically cost about twice as much as an equivalent panel system. Therefore, solar tile systems aren’t normally as cost-effective as panel systems, and are usually only considered where panels aren’t appropriate for aesthetic or planning reasons.

7 They’re low maintenance

Solar panels require relatively little maintenance, but you may need to wash the surface occasionally, and make sure trees don’t begin to overshadow them, to make sure they continue working at their most efficient. Debris is more likely to accumulate on ground-mounted panels, and roof panels that are tilted at 15 degrees or more will be cleaned by rainfall. Panels should last 25 years or more, but their inverter is likely to need replacing at some point sooner, at a cost of about £800.

8 They come with a guarantee

“The performance of solar panels will degrade slightly over time,” says Bent, “but most come with a guarantee of at least 25 years.”

If you are a house buyer looking for a home with solar panels, why not undertake a property search from our home page

Country House For Sale In Odiham Preview

Property For Sale In Odiham Hampshire

Our Odiham branch will be showcasing this country house next week, so here is a preview.

This is a substantial house of immense character in grounds of around 6.5 to 7 acres (not yet checked or measured), now available on the open market for the first time in over 40 years.

Originally designed by the renowned architect Herbert Pool for his own occupation in circa 1935 and extended in the 1950s, the generous proportions of this home extend to about 4,600 sq. ft. with the added benefit of the principal rooms enjoying a southerly aspect over the beautiful grounds to the rear.

Within this significant space there is a self-contained wing with a potential family room / staff quarters.

This property is set in beautiful park like grounds, brushing shoulders with lovely Hampshire countryside and less than a mile from the picturesque village of Odiham, rich in period charm with local shops and restaurants.

property photo rear elevation

The impressive oak front doors open lead to a fine reception hall, where the main stairs lead to the first floor. There is an elegant drawing room with wonderful views over the grounds to the rear, a morning room which opens onto the terrace, a substantial dining room, a garden room, and a kitchen/breakfast room with a converted gas-fired four door AGA and electric Neff oven and Neff ceramic hob. There is a seating alcove. Beyond the kitchen there is a secondary staircase to the first floor. A door leads to the former servant’s quarters with a sitting room, bedroom and bathroom.

The master bedroom with triple aspect windows is approached past a dressing room with an extensive range of wardrobes. There are six further bedrooms, one of which is currently fitted as a study.

property for sale hall photo

In location terms this is special, and benefits from ease of access to London, Heathrow and the M3 / M4 motorways, and of course towns such as Farnham, Reading, Guildford and Basingstoke. Odiham Common is nearby as well as some excellent walks into the adjoining countryside and along the Basingstoke Canal providing wonderful towpath walks.

Telephone 01256 704851 for more details or to a arrange a viewing.

Odiham High Street View
Photo by John Joe

Property for sale in Odiham preview

Property for sale in Hampshire.

If your leaving #London or any other city to escape to the country, then do take a look at this property preview of a character home set in rural Hampshire; due to the open market soon with an anticipated guide of £1.1m.

Located on the outskirts of Odiham Village and surrounded by open countryside, this is an attractive converted and extended former stables, which occupies a plot of approximately an acre.

The Stables was converted by the current owners 25 years ago, and the photos and video created by John Joe showcase this beautiful four bedroom detached family home which has an abundance of character throughout, including exposed beams and brickwork as well as wood burning stoves in both the main lounge and family room.

kitchen photo

Upon entering the property you are met by an entrance hall which provides access to the living room and family room, both of which are double aspect. At the back of the property is the spacious country fit open plan kitchen/dining/family room with double doors leading to an outside patio area and the generous grounds. There is also access to the downstairs cloakroom and separate utility/boot room with side access to the garden.

Upstairs there are four bedrooms, with the master bedroom benefitting from an en-suite bathroom, and a family bathroom. All bedrooms have built in wardrobes and there is additional storage on the landing with a linen cupboard and space in the eaves.

The property is accessed via a double five bar gate which takes you through to the gravel driveway providing parking for a number of vehicles. There is also a detached double garage which has the added benefit of an office space on the first floor.

garden view

The private garden is mainly laid to lawn with a number of mature shrubs and trees, as well as an area of orchard. There is a large stone patio area, ideal for alfresco dining, which is the perfect place to take in the adjacent countryside views. Additionally there is a summer house and a shed that is located next to the greenhouse and vegetable patch.

Odiham is ideally located for access to London via Hook mainline station along with M3 access via junction 5. There are a number of shops and restaurants, a thriving cricket club and tennis club with excellent schools also on offer. Nearby towns such as Farnham, Fleet, Basingstoke and Reading are a short drive away and provide further shopping and recreational facilities.

Contact our Odiham branch on 01256 704851

photo property for sale hampshire odiham

The Grow-your-own Perks Of A Heatwave

Fewer Pests, Earlier Crops And Tastier Pickings! As allotment holders struggle to keep their crops watered, expert Mike Thurlow offers 7 plus points about home-growing in a heatwave.

garden-drought-heatwave-tips-property-hampshire

The long, dry summer may have been a struggle for allotment holders battling to keep up with watering – but hot weather is also keeping some garden nuisances at bay.

As National Allotments Week beckons, horticultural expert and allotment holder Mike Thurlow, of the National Allotment Society, says there are some advantages of a hot, sunny summer to ‘grow your own’ gangs nationwide, provided you keep your crops well watered.

1. Fewer aphids

“The heatwave seems to have slowed the insect population down. On the open ground, there haven’t been as many aphids. We had a short burst of greenfly earlier on in the year, which came to nothing, and not much since then,” he observes. “Just be aware that aphids have a second burst of activity towards the end of summer, so be prepared.”

2.Slugs have gone underground

“We haven’t had as many slug and snail problems this year, as they’re likely to have gone underground, but once it cools, there will be more, so you need to be vigilant when the rain arrives.”

slugs-gardening-property-hampshire

3. Less blight

If you water erratically, your tomatoes may still succumb to blossom end rot (where they turn brown at the base and split). But the dryness of the weather will prevent blight, says Thurlow, because blight thrives in humid, damp weather, when the spores become mobile.

Water your crops directly at soil level, taking the rose off the watering can if necessary, and give tomatoes and other plants one good soaking that you know will last a couple of days. When watering potatoes and tomatoes, try to keep the foliage as dry as you can.

4. Earlier crops

Gardeners should be enjoying the fruits of their labour earlier than usual because of the heatwave, he says. Harvest your crops young before they bolt (set seed) and produce flowers, which many of them will be doing early because of the hot weather.

“If it looks good enough to eat, then cut it, because the next day it might run to seed,” Thurlow advises.

5. Cut and come again

If you cut crops early, some may return for a second harvest, he predicts.

“Peas may have gone to seed prematurely, but if you cut them down they will regrow, so it may be worth considering leaving them in the ground – which you should do anyway, as they are a nitrogen source – but once the cooler weather kicks in and you keep the watering going, you may well catch a late crop.

garden-peas-property-hampshire

“With brassicas – such as broccoli and winter cabbage – if you cut them and leave the stump in the ground, you get little florets coming off those. Then come October, you might have four little cabbages coming off that stump.”

6. Tastier crops

Provided watering is kept up, sun lovers (such as peppers) may have a more intense flavour, says Thurlow.

“We may notice that we have more intense flavour in some produce, because they’ll ripen in the heatwave.”

7. Early sowing opportunities

“Start sowing early varieties of carrot, beetroot and lettuce. Water along a drill incorporating seaweed in the water. You never know how long it will be until the autumn weather.

Plants which you sow now – brassicas such as spring cabbage and some kale – may have enough time to become established if the warm weather continues, to see them through winter.

Other plants such as Florence fennel, which would normally be sown later in the season, could be sown now and, although smaller, the bulbs may be ready by late October or November.

gardening-fennel-summer-2018

Prioritise crops which will take you through the winter. Brassicas will have been stressed with this weather – Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and winter cabbage. If you have crops which normally take longer to mature, harvest them while they are young.

“One of the major difficulties now is going to be your overwintering crops,” says Thurlow. “You need to get them into a position where they will survive the winter without running to seed.

“It’s not too late to sow spring cabbage. Just have a go. If the heat continues, we may have enough growing time left into the autumn where we can get plants into a condition where they will survive the winter.”

National Allotments Week runs from August 13-19. For details visit nsalg.org.uk.

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