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Don’t Bite the Hands that Feed – Your Customers Deserve Better

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It has been a tough couple of years out on the high street. We are still managing to survive yet we have had to make some changes into how we operate. Cutting back on spending has been our focus along with improving our sales through marketing, excellent customer service and reliable products. One of the ways we have managed to keep trading while others around us have closed is by being flexible and making cutbacks, such as moving into a cheaper property.

Moving to a smaller shop was never going to be easy for us but it was a step we needed to make in order to keep our doors open. The reduced cost in utility bills and rent have meant we could afford to cut back on our prices to keep serving the customers excellent quality goods while they also struggle to keep their heads above water. It’s a war out on the high street but one that can be won with careful planning and even more careful spending.

The Doorway Caused Instant Problems

Sadly when we moved to the new premises we noticed that there were some problems that needed to be fixed right away. The door to the shop was a huge problem as it was small with a step up to it. We serve items to everyone and there is no way we want to turn anyone away from our store so we had to address the issue of access so that all our customers, new and old, would be able to enter and exit the shop without any problems. The door was a problem and so we set about sorting it out right away.

We contacted some access consultants and spoke to our landlord. Thankfully the agent was more than willing to help us to make improvements. We were given permission to replace the door and add a small ramp to the exterior of the property. The landlord even chipped in with some of the costs which was not something that we were expecting to happen.

Why go to so much Trouble?

Why did we go to the trouble of sorting out the access? You may think we were silly spending our money that we didn’t need to while making cutbacks everywhere else. When you think about it carefully it does make perfect sense. We make our living by selling to the public. Our product range includes items for men and women of all ages, so we have to be able to welcome men and women into our store. Without them we can’t make sales, which would result in us having to close down and only focus on online sales.

The new doorway and ramp now meant that everyone had the ability to access our store. People that use wheelchairs, mobility scooters, mums with pushchairs and prams and anyone else who might have problems with a small door and a step can now come and go without any problems. The door only needs a slight nudge for it to then open on its own, meaning it’s easy for everyone to open. Shoppers overloaded with bags don’t have to battle with the door anymore!

Your Customers are Your Lifeline

Providing excellent customer service includes welcoming people from all walks of life into your shop. Investing in making your property more accessible makes perfect sense. We saw an increase in footfall immediately and all of our old customers who couldn’t access our new shop were thrilled that we went to the effort to welcome them in. A simple change to the entrance can result in a dramatic rise in sales, something worth considering I think you’ll agree.

Aki Hashimoto specialises in writing, providing DDA Audit and disabled access news to businesses in the UK. Find out more by following @EqualityAct2010 on Twitter.

 

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The Essential Guide For New Landlords

Investing in rental property remains popular in the UK with more and more of us deciding to buy a second property in addition to the family home. It’s easy to think that if you have successfully purchased your own home you know what you’re doing when it comes to buying a second property. However, buying a property with the sole intention of letting it to tenants brings unique considerations and should be viewed with a different frame of mind.

When you buy-to-let you are embarking on a business venture and as the demand for rental property continues to grow, so too does investment in this sector. There are some key steps you can take to maximise success and minimise risk when entering the buy-to-let market and ensuring you are well informed before committing your resources will allow you to make sure you are suited to this diverse sector.

The Rental Market

When looking at potential rental properties, remember that where you would like to live is of no importance. Ask yourself what renters will be looking for and choose a property based on local research and business principles. Renters typically want to be close to local amenities and be walking distance from public transport links. Speak with several letting agents to determine the area and type of properties that local renters are interested in.

Mortgage Advice

Choosing the best mortgage for your buy-to-let property is essential to your success. Seek professional advice from an independent mortgage advisor who can access a broad range of products. This is more advantageous than simply speaking to your local bank or the provider of your own home mortgage as there are many specialist companies who offer mortgages specifically tailored toward the buy-to-let market.

Get Organised

Becoming a landlord can be exciting and rewarding, but there is also a lot of legislation in place to ensure that landlords act responsibly and that tenants are safe. As a landlord you must make sure your property is habitable and that any furniture conforms to fire and health and safety regulations. You must also have an up to date gas safety certificate and ensure that all appliances are in good working order. You must register with a tenant deposit scheme and carry out a full inventory for the property before letting it to tenants. It’s also advisable to vet potential tenants and seek references from past landlords. Building insurance is a mandatory requirement and if you are renting out the property furnished you should also insure the contents against theft and damage.

Think Long-Term

Investing in rental property is not a guarantee of overnight wealth. You must factor continued demand, interest rates and repairs into your investment. Appreciation of the property is likely to be slow and it’s sensible to evaluate why you are choosing to invest in property and how long you plan on holding onto a property. There are tax advantages to keeping the property for at least 10 years, but if you think you may want to sell before that period, ensure you have a plan for paying-off the mortgage.

Safeguard Your Investment

Experts recommend saving at least eight weeks of rent payments to cover immediate expenses such as boiler repairs and it would be wise to save a significant portion of any money left over after paying the mortgage to ensure you have an emergency fund for unforeseen costs. Additionally, you should also maintain the condition of the property. An attractive property will let faster and tenants are more likely to stay in the property if appliances are kept in good working order.

For more information get expert advice here.

 

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Use Your Time During The Housing Market Slump To Revitalize

 

Your home is probably the biggest investment that you have, even though the market has been rather sluggish these days in the real estate sector. But it’s a virtual certainty that eventually the bear housing market will evolve into a certified bull market, and every bit of improvement that you put into your property will pay off in the long run.

Many people will use this opportunity in the down market to fix the things that are slightly off kilter. You could reason that it’s a bad idea to sell in a down market unless you absolutely have to, that is, because you won’t realize the full value of your investment. So instead of quickly putting a piece of property on the market, it just might be a better idea to plan ahead for sunnier days and get the house fully ready for the eventual day when you will put it on sale.

Leasing Out A Property

Even if you’re just planning to lease out a property rather than sell it, you can realize a greater profit on your home if it is kept in good repair and is attractive and clean. After all, you wouldn’t want to move into a home that was in disrepair and was unpleasant to look at.

You can start to improve the appearance of your home by working on the outside, which is the first thing every potential buyer or leaser will see. It pays to keep the grounds and façade of your home in good shape, because, as the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Taking Care Of The Deck

That can mean taking care of such details as deck balusters to make sure that they are painted and in good repair. It is often the details of the home than can make or break the appearance of the home to first-time visitors.

Of course, you’ll want to keep the exterior of your home in good painted or stained condition. If you keep worn, weathered surfaces at bay, you’ll have an overall better looking home, and one that will hold more value than a piece of property that has been allowed to deteriorate.

Taking Care Of Architectural Details

You’ll want to take care of architectural details, such as window frames, railings and porch columns, which also contribute in a substantial way to the look and feel of your home’s exterior.

Once you get the exterior of your home looking the way you’d like, you can always spend time working on the interiors, perhaps redoing paint and wallpaper that might be a little bit worn. Some new lighting fixtures can give a room a new, revitalized feel.

Consider all of your options as you begin to redecorate and remodel, and think of it all as an investment in the future.

Eric Blair writes about architectural design and different exterior design elements such as balusters that make a big difference when selling the property.

 

 

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Landlords From Hell

Whilst a lot of us will know someone who has had a few grumbles about a property they have rented, news stories about real landlords from hell are not uncommon. We aren’t talking about minor problems that haven’t been fixed for a short time or withholding some of your deposit for a petty reason. No, this is far more serious. Rogue landlords are guilty of forcing tenants to live in unacceptable and dangerous conditions; in fact a recent study by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health showed that one million rented homes in the UK are unsafe to live in. However, it is not only the conditions of the properties that that we have to worry about, these landlords from hell use harassment and even illegal eviction against their tenants, with 90 percent of environmental health officers reporting that they had encountered these behaviours from landlords.

Earlier this year a landlord in Reading was convicted of thirteen offences in relation to one property he had rented out. On this occasion the landlord had not maintained the supply of gas to the house, leaving tenants without sufficient hot water and heating.  He also failed to fix dangerous electric sockets and broken appliances, including a cooker, as well as leaving the ceiling in a state of disrepair. As this landlord was unable to pay the fine of £665, an additional day in prison was imposed upon him – he was already serving a four year sentence for another offence. Many would argue that this is too lenient a punishment for his omissions, which could have had serious consequences. Indeed, neglect by some landlords has been fatal. In March a landlord was convicted after a mother and daughter died in a fire at one of his rented properties. He failed to provide adequate smoke detectors and alarms, and had not ensured there was an escape route from their second floor flat.

Whilst landlords from hell may think that harassment and the threat of eviction pays, this is not so. A court case from 2011 saw one such landlord fined over £20,000 after making the lives of one set of tenants a misery over a 30 month period. The harassment campaign started after the tenants approached the council after their requests for repairs were ignored by the landlord. The utilities were initially cut off from the property and after a series of events, culminated in the landlord changing the locks and removing their property while they were out at work. Such events can have a devastating effect on people’s lives and for this couple led to the breakdown of their relationship.

However, when life is already tough, difficulties with a landlord can have a bigger impact. To add insult, it would appear that rogue landlords are targeting groups already considered as vulnerable, such as the elderly, those with a disability and who already have difficult social circumstances. These people may either be too frightened or unsure how to complain, or may feel they have no choice other than put up with atrocious conditions, as they have nowhere else to go. While unscrupulous landlords may think that they can take advantage of people who are less likely to lodge complaints against them, tightening up the law means that their behaviour is now less likely to go unnoticed.

Although the majority of landlords are reputable, the minority who aren’t still works out to be a significant number in the country as a whole. The problem largely lies in the motives of the people who are becoming landlords. Many have jumped on the bandwagon of buy to let mortgages, seeing it as an investment for the future, but without familiarising themselves with the rules and regulations and the need for rent guarantee cover that govern private rentals. Landlords who think they can cut corners on the condition of their properties to maximise their income should think again, as prosecutions against landlords is on the increase.

Anna Holt is a freelance finance writer from England who specialises in the rental market. She was shocked at just how many people had been to hell and back thanks to their landlord.

 

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