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Preparing your property for sale in 2020

Time to pack up the decorations, take down the tree and munch down the rest of those leftovers; Christmas is over and 2020 is here! If you’re preparing to sell your property in the New Year, then you might be feeling a little overwhelmed at the amount of work your home requires before taking it to market. But don’t fret; we’re here with a list of top tips to help get you ready to show off your property.

How to nail the first impression

Almost all of the people with an interest in your property will get their first glimpse of what your home can offer in the form of pictures, either in an agent’s window or online. Not only that, but some buyers will drive by your abode to scope out its location and get a feel for it from the outside before they even enquire through the agent. If it’s not ready they might not even enquire as they have been put off before then. With that in mind, making sure your home is visually appealing and attractive will be your biggest priority in preparation for listing.

With that in mind, we’d strongly consider that you take the following into consideration:

  • Clean your windows – it’ll be easy to notice if you haven’t!
  • Give your front door a lick of paint to freshen it up and make your entrance feel more welcoming, along with a new doormat if yours is looking a little tired
  • Tidy up your entrance hall of any post and flyers
  • Clear out weeds from your paths and tidy your garden
  • Make space on your driveway for visitors to park
  • Be honest – hiding less-than-desirable features in the photos won’t help you as potential buyers will see defects when they view your home

Upping your Presentation

The above tips will certainly help to give your property a tidier feel, which is key; an organised home can give buyers a vital opportunity to picture how they will fit into the living space. But if you want to present your home in its best possible light, then consider how you present your home.

  • Declutter – a simple suggestion but one that can have a massive impact. Removing large bulky items from view, if only temporarily will have a massive effect
  • Let in the light – keep the curtains open, windows clean and any natural sources of light clear to give your home as bright a feel as possible
  • A warm place – make sure all rooms are heated prior to viewings, even those you don’t use often
  • Bathroom spaces – keep your bathroom and toilets clean, free of mould and tidy, and make sure your toiletries are kept to a minimum.

Time-consuming as it may seem, keeping your home tidy, organised and welcoming will put you in good stead for when those viewings start. Remember; visitors need to imagine themselves in your home!

New Year New Home: Selling your home in the new year

There is often speculation as to when is the best time to sell your home. Sellers often wait for certain times in the year that may be construed to be better than others. If you feel like you are ready to sell, you should seek a valuation and consider whether it is the right time for you, as it may well be right now.

The imminent general election has caused mixed feelings about the housing market. Many are waiting for the outcome of the election to see whether policy changes (such as stamp duty reforms), will be put in place. However, if you are considering selling your home, now is a good time to put your property on the market. There will always be other circumstances that can affect the housing market, but none of that should prevent you from getting a full market appraisal.

House prices have continued to increase throughout these uncertain times so you may be surprised at how much your home is worth. No matter what time of the year it is, there are a few checks that you can run through to ensure that your home is in its optimum condition. High spec homes are attracting the attention of serious buyers. If your house is well presented and organised, it will help potential buyers believe in your home.


Photos, photos, and more photos! If there was only one thing that could attract potential buyers to your home, this is it. It’s the first time people will see your home, and remember what we said about first impressions! Ensure that photos are of a high specification, in natural daylight and show the full room to its full potential. Check that your home is neat and tidy so that buyers can visualise living in the home themselves.


Leading on from photos, we have Christmas. You should ensure that you have photos of your home without decorations up, so that those viewing can see how the space in the home could look throughout the year. Christmas time is where we can really show off our homes and display how inviting it is, giving viewers a lasting feeling about your home. The festive spirit is a great tool but be mindful to use tasteful festive décor without too many different colours. Everybody has different tastes so a more neutral Christmas touch will work best if you have viewings over the Christmas season. Potential buyers will also be able to see a sense of community and good spirits in the neighbourhood.


Your home needs to be clean and tidy when on the market. This includes the exterior as well as the interior, as you never know when a potential buyer may be driving past the home unexpectedly! First impressions last so you don’t want to tarnish them by being messy, so keep leaves swept off the garden and ensure that doorbells and outside lights are working; this shows that the home has been well maintained. Inside you want to show that there is ample storage space. Ensure that anything that is left out on tables, sides or shelves is there for a purpose, so that potential buyers can see that there is plenty of storage to maintain a tidy home.


Remember all that paperwork that you know is important, so you keep in that ‘safe place’? Well, now is the time to dig it out. Important documents relating to deed titles and guarantee certificates for any work you have had done are essential during the selling process. Collate any paperwork that you have for the home into a folder so that you can show prospective buyers that everything is in order.

First Time Buyers get up to £25,000 loan to Help to Buy their First Home

First Time Buyers get up to £25,000 loan to Help to Buy their First Home.

Every First Time Buyer in Scotland will now get a boost of up to £25,000 towards their deposit on their new home from the Scottish Government through their new FIRST HOME FUND.

This means that the dream home they thought was just out of reach could now be within reach with their help.

Yes, it is a loan of FREE MONEY with no interest or repayments to pay each month and you only pay it back when you sell the house again.

Jim Parker, Fife Properties Managing Director and Neil Bird, Senior Mortgage Adviser at Cara Mortgages discuss it more in this in-depth interview.

To book an appointment to see our mortgage partners please click on the link for contact details via phone, email or online:


Tips to sell your home at Christmas

There are some things that the British public simply cannot believe at this time of year; how cold it is, how dark it is and, above all, that it’s nearly Christmas. Nevertheless, Christmas is indeed upon us and if you are selling your home, or thinking of selling your home, you may be under the impression that it’s not the optimum time to bag a sale. Our top tips to sell your home at Christmas will show you that not only is it possible to sell your home during the festive season, it is a doddle.

Picture perfect

The average time that a buyer takes to look at a picture on a property advert is three seconds, so having the perfect image is essential in your quest to sell your home – especially at Christmas. When having your home photographed, it is important to think about the staging; ask yourself whether the clutter around your home has been put away, can you remove some of your personal items in order to create more space or give everything one last polish? Once you’ve ticked off those basics, think about the Christmas factor – do not include heavily decorated rooms in your photographs as they will detract from the space and may age your property if your home remains on the market in to January.

Keep the pine in line

Of course, at this time of year the Christmas tree has taken its place in our living rooms and other communal spaces, but make sure that the tree isn’t dwarfing the space it is in. We can all get carried away with the festivities, but this may not be the year to get the 7-foot Nordic spruce of your dreams – in the same way that cramming a king-size bed in to a single room will make the room appear cramped, an over-sized tree will also make your room seem smaller than it is. Buyers like to imagine their own furniture in potential new homes, so allow them the space to do so.

Serious offers only

Although some may suggest that Christmas is a difficult time to attract buyers to your home, what the period does provide is serious buyers. You can make the most of the serious buyers in December by ensuring that you see each property viewing as the optimum chance to sell – making sure that your home is in pristine shape and you are welcome and positive about the property and the area. Potential buyers can glean an image of what it may be like to live in the area from their interactions with you as the homeowner, so ensure that you are up-to-date about local schools and solely positive when they ask you any questions. Similarly, being flexible may bag your buyer as an accommodating vendor, who allows for viewings at irregular hours for example, could help clinch that crucial sale.

Preparation is key

Being organised could be the key in securing your Christmas sale. Make sure that your fixture and fittings list is put together, you have the legally required energy performance certificate and, if you have had work completed on the house, make sure you have the relevant consents. Solicitors can be the make-and-break in a sale scenario, with a slow solicitor frustrating both buyer and seller, so take recommendations from your estate agent and have an efficient solicitor all lined up, ready for a sale.

Being in a new home by the New Year can seem to be an impossible task, however by showing restraint with your festive decorations, and taking the appropriate steps to being prepared and organised you can certainly sell your home this Christmas and start your 2019 with the perfect gift – a new home.

What do homebuyers value most in a property?

According to recent research, home buyers regard traditional features as one of the most important factors in a property when looking for their next home. With the prevalence of first-time buyers in the marketplace, traditionally important factors such as school catchment areas are decreasing in terms of their importance to buyers.

At the top of the list of considerations for buyers is gardens – either private or shared – with almost a third of those surveyed ranking this as the most important factor when looking for a property. For those currently thinking of selling, the garden may take a backseat in terms of priorities over winter; however, in light of this research it may pay dividends to ensure that your outside space remains as pristine as your home over the coming months.

With the focus on gardens, it may come as no surprise that a private car parking or a driveway was ranked second with people now prepared to travel a little further to get that all-important additional space.

Additionally, the more mature generation look for garages and outbuildings to allow them to pursue hobbies as well as bathrooms, bedrooms etc on all floors to allow for more adaptable living.

Interestingly, in capital cities, good transport links were considered the most important factor, with 31% rating this as priority number one.

Amenities such as shops and restaurants, as well as good transport links, followed in the list of priorities with around 13% of respondents noting the importance of good local facilities.

Jim Parker, Managing Director of Fife Properties, noted that: “Buyers are placing more emphasis on searching for the right lifestyle fit for them and not just the right property, so it’s important to tick all the right boxes when selling your home. Concentrate on why they want to buy more than what they want to buy as this will be a key indicator in selling your home which allows you to stand out from the crowd and get a far better offer in the asking price for your home.”

How to save money when furnishing your first home

You are buying your first home, which has most probably dominated the landscape of your day-to-day life for some months as you go through the property purchasing process for the very first time. You have been saving every penny you can in order to get your deposit together and pay any legal fees, but now that the property is secured you need to furnish it.

Now you’re wondering how you are going to fill your property with furniture and your budget is tight. So, we have put together our top tips to make your house a home, without having to spend a fortune…

Speak to the Seller or their Estate Agent

Whoever is moving out of the property that you are buying will most likely have their own plans for their next property, and those plans often involve new furniture as they upsize or downsize. Don’t be afraid to discuss leaving any furniture behind with them – it saves them the hassle of moving items, making this is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Buy Online

We are all aware of the rise of online auction sites and when furnishing your first property they should be your best friends as there are plenty of bargains and hidden treasures on the likes of eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Amazon, Gumtree or the Shpock app. Search for pieces of furniture that have small imperfections or are second-hand and you can pick up some really quality affordable pieces, especially if you’re willing to put in some elbow grease and refurbish them (think of giving a bargain Welsh-dresser a lick of chalk-paint to give it a traditional yet chic feel).

Friends and Family

Your family and friends will most certainly have items of furniture in their homes which they are either not happy with, do not have the space for, or are simply looking to get rid of – this is the time to cash in on those good relationships! Offer to pick things up from their homes to take the onus off them, and in return you could end up with a fully furnished home at a fraction of the cost.

Destination Sweden

Love it or loathe it, there is one furniture giant which has been furnishing homes affordably for some time – Ikea. The Swedish giant certainly offers good value for money, and when it comes to the essentials, it could be a real lifesaver. We would recommend shopping around for any item of furniture and not simply furnishing a room just so that it is finished – the general consensus says to wait two weeks before making a furniture purchase just to mull over your options. Buying at specific periods will also help you to save – think Black Friday, Cyber Monday, New Year or summer which all offer extreme discounts.

Finishing Touches

If you’re furnishing a home with a budget in mind then something you will want to avoid is an aesthetic that looks “cheap” or mis-matched, and the finishing touches can help you to create that chic finish which you will no doubt be aspiring to. Soft furnishings should be at the top of your list in terms of finishing off a room – curtains, blinds, cushions and rugs can all set the tone of a room no matter what other furniture is present. Visit vintage stores and fabric shops and you will be able to find some nice fabrics to work with, especially if you are a dab-hand with a sewing machine.

Wondering what the essentials are? Here’s our list…


Dining table and chairs


Wardrobes (if you have built in wardrobes you’re on to an instant saving)

Chest of drawers


Kitchen items (kettle, toaster, pots and pans)

These are just some of the key points to focus on when furnishing your first home.

Landlord – prepare your properties for winter with our guide

As we head towards the Winter months, now is the optimum time for landlords to prepare for the potential issues that may arise from the harsher weather. Spending a little time and effort now may well save money further down the line in the event of an accident or repair cost. Here’s our list of essential landlord checks:

Boiler Service

The number one priority for every landlord should be checking that the boiler in your property (or properties) is in good condition, as repair costs can be extremely expensive. Book a boiler service to ensure that everything is working correctly and safely as boilers can break down with the surge in gas consumption that comes in the colder months.

Protect the Pipes

Adding lagging to your pipes (specially designed pipe insulation) is an inexpensive measure which will give you peace of mind knowing that your piping will not burst due to freezing and splitting. Focus on pipes in external areas and lofts which may be subject to the most extreme temperatures and you should avoid any problems as the cold sets in.

Smoke and CO Alarms

In line with regulations interlinked smoke alarms must be installed in each hall on each floor including every reception room and a heat detector in the kitchen – now is the perfect time to double-check these are in good working order and that your tenants are safe in your property. If your rental property has a fireplace (or solid fuel appliance) or central heating system then an additional carbon monoxide alarm must be fitted within one meter of the appliance in the same room, as the chances of these items being used increase astronomically in winter.

Open Dialogue

One of the key pieces of advice that we can give to protect your property through the winter is to create healthy dialogue with your tenants. As they are living in the property day-to-day, they will be able to tell you about any smaller issues so that you know how to avoid any larger issues. Make sure your tenants know where the stopcock is in the property, where the fuse board is located and who to call in case of an emergency. This could be invaluable in saving you time and money.

Protect the Roof

Chipped, cracked or dislodged tiles on your roof could lead to significant water damage and in cold temperatures this can lead to structural issues with water freezing and expanding. Double-check that your roof is in tip-top condition, and whilst you’re at it take the time to clear out your gutters to avoid blockages when the inevitable rain falls.

A Guide to Designing a Child’s Bedroom

Designing a child’s room can be tricky; there are a number of factors to consider so it is hard to know where to begin. Design trends are forever changing and your child is constantly growing, so it is important that you consider a few things before starting.

Striking the balance between fun and practical is a challenge and designing something that your child does not grow out of too quickly is not easy, but by taking the time to think it over, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and create a space that is fun for them and easy for you to manage.

Draw Up A Floor Plan

Before you start buying all sorts of cute and colourful furniture, it’s important to remember that depending on your child’s age, this room could have a variety of functions.

Have a think about what the room will be used for and draw out a plan. If the room just needs to be a comfortable place to sleep then you should have plenty of freedom, however, if it also needs to be an area to play and study, you’ll require a good amount of floor space and maybe a dedicated little corner for a desk.

Everyone’s home and preferences are different but you want to get as much out of the space as possible, so take a moment to consider the role that the room will play and how it may change over the next few years.

Choose The Right Colour

It may be tempting to simply ask your child what their favourite colour is and then start buying paint or wallpaper.

While it is a good idea to include your child in the design of their room, if their favourite colour resembles a highlighter pen, then your best option is to go with the more neutral shade of that colour.

Your best strategy is to aim for a colour palette that nicely blends with a variety of furniture and will not look so childish once your child turns into a teen. Save yourself a redecoration job in 18 months by picking a colour that will age well with the rest of the ever-changing décor.

Decide On The Flooring

When it comes to flooring you have a few options, all with their pros and cons, so you just have to decide which will be best for you.

Carpet helps keep the room a little warmer but is vulnerable to stains. Hardwood is much more durable and easy to clean but does not provide much cushion for a child that is a little more clumsy than most. You could also opt for rubber flooring that does offer the benefits of both carpet and hardwood; however, it is the most expensive option of the three.

The flooring that is best for you is dependent on the age of your child, but research your options while keeping your budget in mind and make sure your choice of flooring compliments the room and doesn’t break the bank.

Getting The Furniture Right

There are two key things to keep in mind when choosing your furniture, functionality and lifespan.

We’ve already established that space is a valuable commodity so finding multifunctional furniture can be a real lifesaver.

Beds that have storage built in underneath are quite easy to find and the extra storage they provide can go a long way, as well as free up more of the room for other essential items. This also gives you an opportunity to get a little creative and look for ways to combine 2 items into one such as adding some padding to a desk or dresser so that it also can be used as a changing table.

The other consideration for furniture is its lifespan. There is a lot of cute miniature beds, tables and chairs that might look great, but you must remember that they will grow out of it quicker than you think. A good strategy would be to buy some furniture that they can grow into. Their small clothes may not justify full sized dresser just yet, but it will not be long before you are looking for extra storage space and their feet are hanging out of the end of the bed.

Add Character Through Accessories

Now that your room has been planned out, you have chosen your colour palette, had the flooring fitted, assembled and placed the furniture, it’s time to add character.

The great part about this phase of designing the room is that because the rest of the room’s features were kept neutral and timeless, you can now give your child a good amount of freedom to add their own personality to the room from accessories.

Whether it’s action figures, bed covers or posters, you can basically style the room however you want and the best part is, these accessories can be easily replaced and changed over the years at the same rate as your child’s taste in décor shifts from one thing to the next.

Easy steps to decluttering your home


Do you sometimes feel as though you’re drowning in a sea of clutter? Or that your house has become more and more disorganised? Well, now’s the time to hit those common, messy areas!

Start by sorting through everything you own

Getting started is always the hardest part but performing an audit of everything you own is a great first step. Gather common built-up items like books, items of food, jewellery, paperwork, loose batteries or anything you’re saving “just in case”. Find out how many duplicates or useless items you have and throw them away. Whatever there is leftover, sort and store them properly.

Next… tackle the wardrobe

Let’s face it, a wardrobe is a totally different beast to the random things you tend to collect.

A good system to operate in the future is a one in one out system. Every time you buy a new item of clothing, throw away an old item.

Whilst you’re at it, you should tackle your sock drawers. Throw away any old and worn out items, and add an organiser to the draw to keep everything separate and neat.

Sort out your utensils drawer

You know you’ve collected too much cutlery when the draw starts to stick. Take everything out of the drawer and throw away those useless tools (like your melon baller or your citrus juicer) and add a divider to better divide your essential utensils.

Organise your garage, shed and/or loft space

Transparent boxes are your best friend when it comes to organising your storage spaces. You can stack them all on top of each other and you can see all the contents you’ve stored inside them, meaning you don’t need to go through a hundred boxes to find something.

Get the kids involved

Encouraging your kids to keep their bedrooms neat and organised  (easier said than done) is a brilliant way to keep one of the messiest areas of your house neat and tidy.

Introduce them to the idea of donating unwanted toys to charity shops and how doing so can have a positive impact on the lives of others. It’s also a vital life skill your children will need to learn, so everyone wins!

Is the buy-to-let market still viable?


The buy-to-let market has had somewhat of a difficult time over the past few years due to changes in government legislation and taxation. Since July this year, however, the number of buy-to-let mortgages approved has risen considerably and is proving that there is life in the market for those looking to invest.

With competitive mortgage rates available, especially if a larger deposit has been accrued, anybody who has the desire to become a landlord now has the opportunity to do so. A new report by HomeLet showing that the average rent around the UK has reached a record high of £970 per month demonstrates that the potential to reap rewards through buy-to-let is exceptional.

HomeLet data shows that rents have increased in every single region of the United Kingdom over the past twelve months, up to 3.5% greater than at the same point in 2018. For those looking to invest, this presents tremendous opportunity to be able to invest locally and see the benefits.

Biggest annual increases in average rents

Region August 2018 August 2019 Annual Change
London £1,632 £1,689 +3.5%
North West £717 £741 +3.3%
South West £826 £852 +3.1%

In terms of rental yields, we are also seeing record highs in terms of the average yield that landlords are reaping, with the average now reaching 4.5%, up from last year and the highest in three years. For those looking to maximise their yields, there is a growing trend towards Houses of Multiple Occupancy, or HMOS, as they tend to provide a yield approximately 20% higher than a typical rental property.

So, which region provides the best rental yield?

North West 6.20%
Yorkshire & The Humber 5.90%
East Midlands 5.40%
Scotland 5.30%
West Midlands 5.10%
North East 5.10%
South West 4.40%
Wales 4.20%
East of England 4.10%
London 4.10%
South East 4.00%
National average 4.50%


On a local level in Fife, the annual rental increase is 2% and the rental yield is 4.5%.

However, in Fife, there are real gems out there producing yields of between 6% – 12% sometimes greater.

You can find out more by tuning in to our Lettings Director, Richard Cook’s Investment Property of the Week Vlog via our social media channels every Thursday @ 7pm.