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.
When we were very small, our parents used to regularly take us to Pagham in Sussex – staying in one of a set of old railway carriages that had been turned into holiday chalets. I clearly recall the bunk bed arrangment in one section – because the ceiling of the carriage was domed, the top bunk was a bit snug and was daunting at first. The rest of the accommodation has gone in a blur of mismatched memories. I do remember there was a verandah along the front – with steps up in the middle to the door of the carriage. I lso remember the windows had catches to allow you to slide the glass panels open – with the top section dropping open only a little way. We never had very hot summers in those days and yet I recall our bedroom feeling unbearably hot and stuffy at night. Probably because I was consigned to that top bunk!
I was entertaining a chum who lives in the very nicest part of a home county – he knows his odd little 1930s bungalow would be worth a couple of hundred thousand in most areas but because of the location in that particular town, he is on to a real winner. Hoever, when he and his soon to be lady wife looked at the strangely unadorned little place way back in the early 1980s, they could just about afford the front door and a bit of the kitchen. This was before the revolution in house peroperty values and the madness that now surrounds any plot of land bigger than a dustbin store. This chap paid £70K for the unpreposessing pad when similar places elsewhere were about £60K. With only the minimum modernisation and expansion up into the roof space, in 32 years, it’s now worth £875K compared to only £350K elsewhere. Incredible !
I have a chum who lives on a wonderfully hot, sunny mediterranean isle. A jewel of a place and her villa is some 40 km above the main town, in the lower mountain regeion. There are many attractive properties scattered around – a few near enough to each other to constitutue being called a village and other remotely set into the side of the mountains. Each one is owned by a family somewhere – usually a grandaughter of one of the village elders. The rather smart rule there is that property and land is passed down through the female side of families. However, in order to stop whole swathes of land being sold off to developers for the next crop of second homes and holiday villas, the older generation leaveland to three or four daughters, knowing the complex inheritence rules put them off trying to disentangle it all. A good agent and solicitor over there are a must.
When I was working for a time in a northern town, I was housed in a corporation property; it came with the job and we were placed on an estate right up above the town. It was more economical to get the bus in to town and I used to scamper up to the top floor so I could enjoy the views over the most amazing countryside. Several miles of heath and moorland stood between me and the office. It was truly glorious. More than could be said for the ugly, meanly proportioned houses on my estate. They had been built in the late 1960s as an emergency measure to house the masses and had all the basics – but not a redeeming feature that I could find. Today’s new social housing is so much prettier and thoughtfully designed to offer some dignity to the resident, not just a brick carbuncle in a small garden space.
I have family connections with folk in Houston Texas, Oxford England and various other places but these two locations are notable for their very famous architecture. Houston is new and ultra modern. Being in the stormy region – one hit by endless hurricanes, most notably in August and September 2017 during one of the worst periods of that city’s existence. They were descimated by Hurrican Issaac in the early 2000s and before that Katerina. Yet they come back time and again to rebuild their city and infrastructure. We could not hope to cope with that amount of chaos and desolation over here. The other end of the scale is Oxford. Beautiful spires of all the historic churches in the collegiate city reinforce the class and the rotunda of the Bodlian library that stands as an icon of everlasting importance in this achingly old university city. No wonder the Americans love coming over here to see our heritage.
There are so many houses being built at the moment, it’s as though we are racing to a certain point from which we cannot build anything else for the remainder of this millennium. For some reason, the office national statistics seems to be thinking there are millions of young families all desperate to buy their first home – there are literally thousand being built every month on the outskirts of every major town and city. It is possible that the original renting market has all taken it into their heads to buy instead, but this is cannot be the case. There are many areas where there is an equal number of rental agencies screaming for more stock of good, clean rentable property for their never ceasing waiting lists. It must just be there are far more young and ‘next stage up’ families out there needing to get settled. An estate agent’s dream scenario in fact!
There are so many different facets to property management. Firstly we have just the outside to deal with. i.e. all the pointing work, ensuring no gaps exist between the outer bricks. Then there are the gutters, fascias and soffits around the roof line. These can come down with sometimes tragic results when the gusty weather gets up. One of our houses had a major problem with cast iron gutters – it was a victorian mid terrace . . . not easy to fix when you have a couple of houses either side that share the massively heavy and complex gutter and downpipe system. We also had trouble with the chimney flashings – those little flaps of roof materials that is waterproof and sits below the roof tile to and is pulled up around the edged to stop any water ingress. This is where a property maintenance company is worth it’s weight in gold. An annual contract is so worth while.