Posted on Jun 30, 2013

Solutions for safe and accessible bathing

The ability to maintain personal hygiene independently at home is important to most people, but limited mobility or disability can make this difficult. There are many aids to help to make baths accessible for people who experience some difficulty getting in or out of the bath. These include the installation of grab rails or lifts to lower the bather into the water and raise them out of it. Whilst these can be helpful, bathroom fittings that have been specifically designed for easy access are now readily available. These walk in baths and showers represent a major improvement for people who have mobility issues and are worried about slipping or getting out of the bath safely.

Walk in baths

Walk in baths can be compact or the same size as a conventional bath. They often have built in seats to help the user remain in a comfortable upright sitting position, but can be supplied with flat bottoms. The large doors open inwards and are completely watertight as the pressure of the water helps to seal around the door. Other standard features of walk in baths are the slip resistant base and the low entry point which means that only a small step is needed to enter the bath. Walk in baths come in different depths and widths. Some have additional features such as hydrotherapy options which are helpful for people with some medical conditions. The taps are thermostatically controlled so there is no danger of the user scalding himself. Plumbing is compatible with that of most baths, so replacing a conventional bath with a walk in model does not normally present any problems.

Walk in showers

For people who prefer a shower to a bath there are various models of accessible showers available. These are often ideal to use when replacing a conventional bath and will fit most bathrooms. These showers may have a low entry point or it may be ramped for even easier access. The base is slip resistant and users can choose from a variety of shower stools and chairs. The shower panels and doors can be full height or half height, whichever is more suitable for the user. They are often supplied with non slip floor to ceiling poles to provide extra support. For smaller bathrooms, compact showers are available.

It is useful to ask an occupational therapist advice about whether a bath or shower would suit an individual better before deciding whether to go ahead with the installation. Whichever choice is made it will be very satisfying to bathe independently again without having to worry about slips or falls.

Posted on Nov 27, 2012

Asset Splitting Tips When a Relationship Comes to an End

The end of any relationship is a stressful and harrowing time for all. When shared property and high-value assets are involved, the situation can be even worse. The best practice in such a situation is obviously to deal with everything as quickly as possible. The longer the issues go on without being resolved, the more time it will take to get over the split and return to some sort of new normality. Below we have put together a few tips to help you resolve these matters quickly and effectively.

Set up a separation agreement

Many relationships break down due to lack of communication, and this in itself can make the separation process even worse. One way to ensure you both are on the same page and understand exactly what is happening is to setup a separation agreement. With the help of a solicitor, you can list exactly what is going to happen with money, property and even responsibilities for any children. Examples of usual requests include an agreement not to annoy or disturb a former partner, to provide financial maintenance for a partner as long as they are not living with another partner and who the children should live and have contact with. Although tough to do at the time, agreements such as this can alleviate any potential problems in the long run, and are highly recommended.

Find faster ways of selling property

Traditional routes of selling property are tediously long and drawn out. When you are trying to start a new life for yourself away from a former partner, this is the last thing you want. Luckily there are many companies which can sell your house quickly, sometimes for cash within a week. This could shave many torturous months off the process, giving you both the chance to start afresh with your new lives.

Posted on Aug 15, 2012

Are Mortgages Really More Affordable in 2012?

Mortgage repayments are at their lowest on average since 2008, according to recent research. This is good news for first-time buyers, as low mortgage rates will enable them to get a foot on the property ladder if they have been able to save a decent deposit.

Geographical location makes a significant difference to mortgage affordability, with a clear north/south divide. The most affordable areas to live are in the North West of England, with property in the South East being the least affordable.

Monthly mortgage repayments vary considerably across England and Wales. Average monthly repayment figures in the North of England are £300-£460, in the Midlands they are £350-£420 and in the South of England (including south Wales) they are £400-£637.

These figures reveal that, in theory, moving from the North of England to the South could double mortgage repayments. On the other hand, those thinking of moving north will benefit significantly due to lower property prices there. Increasing petrol, food and energy costs make low mortgage rates the only glimmer of hope in a sea of rising prices, static wages and job losses.

In the light of job uncertainty, lower mortgage repayments give consumers more flexibility to cover other household costs and even save money. Even if rates start to rise again, this period of low mortgage interest rates has enabled some people to consolidate their financial position by paying off credit cards or other borrowing faster than originally planned.

As a proportion of take-home pay, mortgage payments were at their highest in 2008, with a figure of 20.5%. The lowest mortgage payments as a proportion of take-home pay were 15.2%, or £488 per month, in Sep 2011. It is clear that mortgages in general have become more affordable in recent years, but location is the biggest factor in how much money can be saved.

Check out the below interactive infographic for more information:


Visit Barclays for more details about our mortgage research, or to find out more about Barclays mortgages.

Posted on Jun 20, 2012

Home moving tips

Moving house can be an extremely daunting and stressful task. As well as emotional factors of leaving a place with memories and anticipation at the changes to come, there are many practical matters to deal with. This can be particularly tricky if you have children who can get bored, frustrated and emotional.

However, there are many ways to make moving house easier for you and your family. Try to enlist the help of family or friends in helping you move. This will reduce the time it takes to move and it a more enjoyable experience. Make sure you leave time for plenty of refreshment breaks as moving can be a physically exhausting task.

You should also see moving home as an opportunity to get rid of all the clutter you have in your home. This will also make unpacking a lot quicker and is something you can start on before the actual move. You can always try to sell your old clothes, children’s toys and general household junk in a garage sale. This will provide you with extra money and is often easier for families as items are not ‘going to waste’. If you have any items left at the end of your garage sale, your local charity shop will be happy to receive the items.

Many people tend to spend money on boxes and packaging equipment. However, your local shops will often be happy to provide you with boxes for free. This is particularly true of vegetable and liqueor shops who often have piles of spare boxes. It may even be worth asking at your office as many boxes containing office supplies are disposed of.

It is advisable to clean your house as you go along. However, it is also important to have a final clean before you leave. This will also help ensure you haven’t left anything behind. You may wish to seek help from a cleaning company.

Many people require the help of a removal company. It is important to start looking for a company a considerable time before the actual move. Many removal companies will be booked up far in advance and the quotation process can take a few weeks. There are a few key things to look for in a removal company. The first is price, you should compare prices of a variety of companies before committing to any one. You can now receive online quotations from most companies. It is important to bear in mind that if you wish to move at a peak time such as a weekend, prices will be considerably more expensive. IIt is also important that your removal company are reliable. You can read online reviews to get an idea of companies reputations or you can check whether companies are members of The British Association of Removers or The National Guild of Removers and Storers.

It is also important to ensure you have buildings and contents insurance. If you are buying your first home or have a mortgage, buildings insurance is mandatory. It helps to cover the cost should a tragedy such as a fire or flood occur and can provide your family with accommodation while your house is being repaired. Contents insurance also helps towards the costs of events such as flood and thefts. Ordinarily, replacing damaged or stolen items could cost thousands of pounds leaving you open to serious financial loss. Buildings and contents insurance is therefore important for your piece of mind in your new home.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012

Home Extensions and Renovations

When you are planning a home extension or a renovation there’s lots to consider before work can begin. Here we look at the top 10 considerations from avoiding disputes with the neighbours to ensuring you have suitable home insurance cover in place.

Tip one: Will it be legal?

Make sure that there are no legal issues relating to the extension or renovation of your property – for example, you may live in a conservation area or your property may be listed and as such any works will require special permission

Tip two: Find out if you need planning permission

There are different rules pertaining to planning permission dependent on where you live – for example, in England the maximum eaves height of the extension is less than 3m if it is within 2m of the boundary but in Wales the proposed extension must not exceed 4m in height and must be within 2m of the boundary. Take time to consult your local council’s planning department or a reputable architect/planner in case there are any local regulations.

Tip three: Consult your neighbours

Nobody wants to be embroiled in neighbourly disputes so consult your neighbours about any plans before you start work – if nothing else, they should appreciate the courtesy. You’ll also need their permission if the extension or renovation affects a party wall i.e. the shared wall between two houses.

Tip four: Set a budget and stick to it

Outline what you can comfortably afford to pay for each aspect of the renovation or extension and the total amount you are able and willing to spend. Once you’ve set your budget, stick to it but don’t forget to include a realistic contingency fund, just in case any unexpected costs arise.

Tip five: Consider the practicalities

There are a number of factors to consider when working on the design of a home project – but don’t be too focused purely on the cosmetic aspects of the design, instead make sure you are factoring in all of the practicalities too. These include the positioning of doors, windows, radiators and fireplaces; the ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms; and so forth.

Tip six: Is it private?

Think about the size and position of your windows and whether you’ll need obscure glass fitted.

Tip seven: Work with your natural environment

Consider how the room can best work with the natural environment. For example, South facing windows will maximise natural daylight and warmth.

Tip eight: Positioning of utilities

Remember to factor in the electrics, plumbing and central heating when designing a room. Plan the location of plug sockets, radiators and light switches carefully.

Tip nine: Shop around for builders/architects

Ask for recommendations from friends and family if they have had any work done on their home – word of mouth is often the best way to find a reliable contractor. If you don’t have anyone in mind, call up several builders and architects and ask them for quotes and timescales. Make sure you have a clear outline of the expenses and what they incorporate before you agree to hire somebody. Factor in any existing repairs that need to be carried out and structural specifications as these will need to be looked at before work can begin.

Tip 10: Ensure you have adequate insurance

Consult your home insurance provider before work begins to ensure your property will remain insured both during and after the renovation is carried out. Look for policy features such as: public liability insurance; personal accident cover; and legal expenses cover, in case there is a dispute. Also check to see if builders/contractors have employer’s liability insurance and whether or not they are covered against all risks and damages.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012

Own a Slice of Stunning Sevenoaks

Sevenoaks is a charming market town located in Kent, around 20 miles from Charing Cross in London. The nickname of ‘the Garden of England’ is justified as it has many fantastic parks and public spaces like Knole Park, which is a 100-acre reserve filled with deer and tall trees.

The market tradition is still going strong in Sevenoaks. The general market takes place each Wednesday behind the High Street, and in the Buckhurst car park a farmers market is held every second Friday and every third Sunday of the month.

For buying everything else, there is a Waitrose and Tesco. In 2011, a brand new Blights Meadow Shopping Centre opened with 4,026 square metres of retail space. Another development was given the green light recently at West Kent Cold Storage. This will be converted into a 20-acre green business park with office space.

Sports lovers are spoilt for choice in Sevenoaks, with a selection of sporting facilities and gyms. The Leisure Centre offers swimming pools, a gym, sauna, spa, steam room, crèche and a meeting room. The Wildernesse Sports Centre features badminton, five-a-side football, squash and step aerobics.

Getting into the big city is simple via motorways and public transport. London commuters can hop onto trains and normally get to Charing Cross in 55 minutes. London road or the A224 is a main junction in itself. There is also quick access to London via the M25.

Houses for sale in Sevenoaks are diverse and cater to many lifestyles. The choices in include semi-detached and detached houses, period style homes, cottages and multi-storey properties. For those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of London, but who still want to remain relatively close to the big city, Sevenoaks is a great choice. This is a stunning slice of country life close to the city.

Posted on Jun 2, 2012

Understanding the Importance of Conveyancing

All prospective property buyers in the UK ought to consider conveyancing fees when estimating the cost of purchasing a new home, but how many appreciate the importance of this vital service? Too often, buyers assume that the role of solicitors and conveyancers is purely administrative, but in truth these professionals provide an essential service that can make or break a deal.

Five Stages

Conveyancers, or sometimes specialist land law solicitors, are involved in the process of buying a new home from start to finish. According to Directgov, conveyancing can be divided into five key stages: pre-contractual; contractual; pre-completion; completion; and post-completion.

Pre-Contractual and Contractual

The pre-contractual stage is arguably the most important because it ought to unearth all relevant details about a property. Potential buyers should use conveyancing services to find out what, if any, strings are attached to the home of their dreams. Conveyancers carry out Land Registry checks to identify any restrictions on a property. Restrictions are likely to appear in the form of easements (granting rights of way to others) or restricted covenants (which limit what work can be done to a property). Conveyancing might also expose boundary issues.

This stage is also useful for discussing tips on dealing with fixtures such as carpets, tiles and storage units, which may or may not be included in the purchase price of the property. Conveyancers also complete a number of administrative tasks at this stage, after which signed contracts of sale are exchanged.

Pre-Completion and Completion

Conveyancers carry out additional checks before the purchase is officially completed. It should be noted, however, that the deal is legally binding when the contracts are exchanged. The pre-completion stage enables a final check of mortgage details, fixtures, fittings and fund transfers. After payment is sent to the seller, all other fees (solicitor’s, conveyancer’s, surveyor’s, etc.) must be settled if still outstanding.


After completion, the conveyancer will arrange payment of Stamp Duty and ensure that a note detailing the change of ownership of a property is submitted to the Land Registry. Keys to the newly purchased property will be sent to the buyer as agreed.

Some people choose to carry out their own conveyancing work wherever possible, but this is highly inadvisable. Licensed conveyancers or fully qualified solicitors ought to handle all necessary aspects of buying a new home, if only because so many problems can arise that might – or should – ruin the deal.

Posted on Mar 18, 2012

Give Your Full Attention When Picking Internal Doors

When people who have never been involved in the building of a new home hear that you are, they think how grand it all sounds. They can imagine the role of choosing obvious things like flooring and windows but not about internal doors at all. It is not as apparent how important those less prominent features prove to be and how important decisions on which ones to go with are in the long run.

They definitely don’t realise that there is a great deal to take into consideration when just addressing the doors alone. However, once an individual dares to undertake the task of a new build they never will forget how weighty such choices are for the overall look and function of a home.

Let me share with you some of the most important things to take into account when picking those doors out. Identify whether or not you want fire doors and if you would be best served by soundproofing. For, if you opt for the fire doors you will get that noise protection from them. Thus, even if those safety doors are not required in the area you are building they offer a great deal.

If you are working with any tight spaces, the ideal would probably be to go with sliding doors. This will eliminate the need for the space required for the door itself to be opened in either direction. On the other hand if you have plenty of room, then stylish full height doors can bring great decorative detail to the space. So, for those of you unfamiliar with this process, I hope you now acknowledge the importance of choosing the right type of internal doors and allow for a reasonable amount of your time to be spent on such decisions.

Posted on Mar 15, 2012

How to Assess the Location of a Potential New Home

There is obviously very good reason why the phrase location, location, location is so persuasive in the real estate world. Main thing here is that you can change an awful lot about the property that a house exist on, and either completely alter the house itself, or demolish and rebuild as you wish. But, you are ultimately, and completely committed to the location. This means multiple important things, and all of which should be considered when you are on the hunt for a new home.

Upon reading the address of a proposed house, identify how far it will fall from important destinations, such as work, schools, gyms, shops, religious affiliations, or any other place you are bound to. Then take things a step further for those locales that are critical, and are required to be good, like schools or parks for kids. Confirm that these meet your standards, and will continue to do so as your children grow, or your own educational needs expand.

Once you have reached the address, assess the neighbourhood for cleanliness, grade of housing, proximity to other structures, distance from water source, electrical source, and any other things you might find unsightly or unbearable. If things look as though you are finding the property to be of interest, then return to it at different times of day to see what kind of traffic there is, and if the locals feel it is safe to allow their kids to spend time outside. Once you have collected enough info from your recon work, you will be in a better place to confirm or reject this location.

Posted on Mar 14, 2012

Property Investment in 2012

You may have read that property prices are set to fall this year; that they fell throughout 2011 and have been experiencing a turbulent time over the last four years. Is now the time to buy? Will they fall further or experience a rise in the next couple of years?

These are all questions that are likely to be running through your mind if you’re looking at houses for sale and thinking of making a property investment this year. So, what are you going to do? Here we’ve given you a bit of a run down on your options for property investment in 2012.

The mortgage  

Mortgage lenders are currently requiring property owners to provide a 20% deposit. While this may initially put you off as a first time buyer or if you feel you’re stuck in your current property without little chance to move; there are various schemes to help with this initial outlay.

The Government is continuing to encourage people to move into new homes and has teamed up with many property developers to give a helping hand. Keep your eye out for schemes like this which could well provide the assistance for your first property investment.

Buy to let market

The rental market continues to enjoy resurgence as some people are making the lifestyle choice to continue to rent. This may be borne out of necessity, but some see it as creating more flexibility in their life in terms of moving job and location[1].

Those that can afford to buy property as an investment to let out to tenants can therefore reap the rewards. Sensible buy to let investors who have purchased property in sound locations with tenants in good jobs with good employment prospects continue to do well with rental growth. In fact, in some quarters this is being tipped to continue to offer very good returns in 2012[2]. If you can tap into this market you could well place yourself in a great financial position.

Student accommodation sector

While University numbers may be on the decrease due to the increase in fees[3], in prospering university cities and towns there is still excess demand over supply. While it’s still important to be careful of weaker educational establishments and a handful of towns that have more balanced supply and demand, this is still an extremely attractive sector for buy to let. In some instances entire apartment blocks are being purchased to really get the benefit of this market. However, it’s important to remain cautious on individual bedroom ‘investments’ that have been appearing in the marketplace recently.[4]

While the current housing market may make glum reading for some, there is still good investment to be made.

[2] Assetz Property News Service (2012), at

[3] BBC News, UK University applications down as fees rise (2012), at

[4] Assetz Property News Service (2012), at

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