I often leaf through the endless stream of magazines in the supermarket – thechance to look at ideas for decor and maybe a quick glance at what’s going on in today’s world of self build and design . . . In all of the magazines geared for ladies, of a certain age and up, there are adverts for various river cruises, coach trips, railways trips etc. and every single one includes Amsterdam and / or Bruges. Both of these locations are jolly pretty – well the one or two cobbled paved areas they show in the ad. When you take the included excersion, on a river barge, you’re guided to look up and appreciate the intriguing architecture and it’s only recently I really did do that. I did wonder how on earth did they build such pretty little narrow gingerbread style homes and wharfs on top of such a watery base. I’m quite sure the local design teams in my town would be able to produce ideas for building on top of man made canals – their training would have covered all kinds of scenarios I’m sure; but I’m jolly glad they wouldn’t have to in reality!
There are many rules in this country concerned with land and where you can and cannot build – the local country councils have had to draw up their five year plans for some time now, at least 30 years. These give the boundary areas within which land will be designated as suitable or appropriate for property development. The rest, outside those marked zones will not be considered unless by way of a sudden law change or some decree from the government in an emergency situationThe land that is still considered ‘safe’ from development is usually referred to as green belt – as it will be prime farm land or other landscaped area kept for the good of the populace. People do try and get round these rules but with a good reporting system, they are found out very quickly and houses to have to be demolished after the errant developer has lost a court case and subsequent appeal. The point made here is that by using a professional planning and develpment company, with experience of land and planning issues, and a fear of public humiliation if they ignor any – these rules will be adhered to and development will only take place on bona fide plots.
It can be very difficult to focus on what exactly is needed to be done to a house once it’s past its very best. Perhaps you have inherited a place outside a major home county – you really won’t have any idea how much it will cost to upgrade and refurbish it to even a middling standard. Unless you have a private bank beside you, it’s going to take a concentrated effort to fund work to be done a job at a time. As I watch a home purchase and refub programme fairly regularly it’s it seems the most cost effective way to renovate a property is to use one firm who can look at the project as a whole, advice on the jobs that can be done in one fell swoop so as to keep the hire of personnel under control. Any expert trades can work on the place at the same time to limit the project engineering time on site. Good communication and trust in the team leader is necessary.
I have recently been on my travels, this time to the States. Everything is done differently wherever you travel to. The States epseically so. Of course they have everything bigger – houses, roads, weather. Especially weather! I was given a tour around a city that suffered desperately badly with hurricanes two years ago. Several fatalities, and thousands of folk lost their homes and everything they treasured. It turns out that flood insurance is not an option on normal home insurance as it is here. The government there has implemented a separate scheme that families are encouraged to pay in to. Many don’t because they feel they’re not on a flood plain. This is what happened the other year – most of the losses were not covered by standard their standard insurance and they’d ignored the government scheme. Their insurance does cover all rain/water damage from above coming down but not for flood damage coming up from below. Bizarre but true.
I live on an attractive housing development – built in the early 2000s. There was a bit of resurgence in the confidence of house building and we were happy to buy into this selection of 4 and 5 bedroomed detached family homes. One thing that appealed was that although the very nature of housing estates indicates that more than one house has to be built, unlike after the war, when mass house building was carried out through emergency needs, today’s estates could have some finess and attractive points. The superb brickwork is one feature. The side wall of the house behind my back garden is a true work of art. If I’d not seen them actually laying it row upon row, all neatly and very quickly, I would honestly have thought it had been manufactured in one huge block and then cut to shape! There is no ugly bit sticking out or mishapen areas – all the bricks are from the same colour batch and not a single patch of white salty deposit has appeared since 2001. Hurrah
Oh gosh, the number of times I’ve been round the outside of my house in very bad weather, just keeping fingers crossed that the gutter doesn’t detach itself again, or that the pots on top of the chimney pot do actually stay put – they look for all the world as if they’re ging to topple in the next gust. Years ago I lived in a late Victorian inner terrace of three houses. The guttering was always a mute piont – because it was a terrace, the cast iron guttering and wooden fascias ran along the entier length across all three houses, with holding clamps at regular intervals. One winter we had very serious snow for many weeks. It was so heavy and didn’t thaw, so eventually my father knocked on doors and got the other owners to
One of the most daunting things that someone has to endure is finding themselves alone after many years of marriage or partnership. That other person is always a comfort to have around in a time of crisis – like when the house starts falling apart around your knee caps and you consult with each other over what to do about it. . . . . Suddenly having this responsibility all to yourself is worrying, but it doesn’t have to be the as bad as all that. Engaging the services of a property management and maintenance company will ease this burdon considerably. By discussing with them the jobs you know your partner used to handle themselves or you did together, they can advice the best and most economical way to keep on top of the same tasks. Safety is a issue too – leaving jobs to the professionals makes so much sense – and it will only enhance the value of your property.
When we look around our properties – in my case, evey few years, it’s important to note carefully the condition of things that can actually fall off and cause damage to people and other properties. I had just such an incident recently – we’d had really seriously bad gusty conditions over a period of three weeks and the entire width of my back fence blew down, squashing several of my favourite shrubs and some of the neighbour’s behind it. I wasn’t entirely surprised because it has stood come rain or shine for most of the last 17 years! After initial panic, I got my act together and went online to this brilliant property maintenance company. They sent their fencing contractor round to see me and within ten minutes, he had sized up and quoted 4 different choices. I selected his recommended medium price to include parts, labour, clearance of damaged stuff and taxes. Very good service so far.
There has been all sorts of grumbling in the media about the lack of affordable housing throughout the UK but particularly in the big cities. Much of the rental stock is held by very unsavory and unscrupulous landlords who let their properties sink into deplorably unkempt and unsafe condition but still rent them out for really high rent. This sort of behaviour tarnishes the industry and it needs a good honest property management company to really get hold of the properties and restore them to usable condition. A new idea is to take a larger building and make several individual cohabitant sleeping/living rooms with own private shower room but with shared kitchen and utility facilities. One I know includes weekly cleaned community areas, shared garden space and compliementary WIFI. Along the lines of student accommodation, in hard pressed areas, this shceme is aimed at reducing the housing burden for young working professionals.
We’re heading towards that time of year again that makes most of us get all fluffy and soppy – Christmas and the new year period. This year it’s been even nicer for me as I’ve been involved in helping a chum with a sprawling country house to run her b & b business, more along the Air bnb lines. She’s had the most wonderful selection of house guests too and they all willingly pay up the very reasonably priced fee. The building itself dates back to 1730s and has only had one or two building additions since. She consults a property maintenance agency for all matters – they don’t overcharge and always check with authorities over every project. The major works have to passed by the local planning office that deals with Grade I properties – they are experts of course and know exactly what is permitted and what is not.