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Understanding Stamp Duty

You hardly need reminding that it’s tough to to be a first time buyer. But one problem – and it just happens to be Britain’s oldest tax – has become easier.house

This is of course Stamp duty, originating in the 17th century and imposed to cover the cost of registering a change in ownership at a government office called the Land Registry.

This process requires a stamped certificate from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – the tax man to you and me – but HMRC will provide this only when the duty is paid.

So how is it easier?

Well, stamp duty used to be charged on a ‘slab’ basis. So buying a home for £250,000 meant you paid the old charge of one per cent duty on the full price, making it £2,500.

But if you bought, say, a £260,000 home you would have been in the old three per cent category applied across the whole price – so the duty would become a whopping £7,800.

This slab system was considered unfair and a disincentive for buyers. Therefore stamp duty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is today levied like income tax.

Up to £125,000 it’s zero, and over £125,000 to £250,000 it’s two per cent. Then from over £250,000 to £925,000 it is five per cent.

On that £260,000 home you therefore today pay no duty up to £125,000, then two per cent above £125,000 to £250,000, and then five per cent above £250,000 to £260,000.

It adds up to just £3,000 and in this example saves you £4,800.

There are a few exceptions to stamp duty – but don’t raise your hopes.

There’s no duty at all on zero-carbon homes (but these are rare) while some Right To Buy properties, where tenants purchase their council home, have reduced duty. In Scotland, stamp duty doesn’t exist but there is Land and Building Transaction Tax which is roughly similar and means that north of the border, our £260,000 home would cost £2,600 in LBTT.

Across the rest of Britain buyers of almost all homes sold for above £125,000 have no choice but to pay stamp duty within 30 days of moving in.

In reality, it happens quicker because it’s handled by your conveyancer – that’s the expert you will have instructed to handle legal elements of the purchase.

Sometimes a mortgage lender may offer to add the stamp duty to the loan for the house. It sounds tempting but try to resist: saving for stamp duty may be tough but it will cost less than adding it to a mortgage on which you repay not just the loan itself but interest as well.

One final thing – it’s always buyers who pay stamp duty. That’s not really unfair because as you move up the ladder and sell up, so someone will pay duty to buy from you.

 As the saying goes ‘What goes around, comes around.’

Image Credit: Geograph

graham norwood

Author Bio

This article was provided exclusively to First Home News by Graham Norwood, a successful journalist who specialises in writing about residential property. Read Graham’s blog at Property News Hound or follow him on Twitter.

 

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Three quirky hacks to make sure your furniture fits

One of the most stressful parts of moving into a new home is the daunting task of fitting in the furniture from your old home, as well as those additional items you buy along the way! But before you rush to transport your sofa or desk to your new place, make sure you have space for it all with these helpful measuring hacks.

Plan with cardboard

Do you have any spare cardboard boxes lying around after packing? Well, why not use them to find the perfect position for your furniture by simply cutting them to fit the dimensions of your chairs, tables, cardboard boxcabinets etc? You can then place them down, measure your space and work out exactly where your furniture should go before having to take on any heavy lifting!

Go virtual

Release your inner tech savvy by seeking out helpful apps, such as the Ikea Home Planner. to place virtual furniture in virtual rooms using your smart phone or tablet. There is no need to hire an interior designer as you can measure, rearrange, and style your room with nothing but technology.

Measure without taSpool_of_stringpe

Don’t have a tape measure? Don’t fear! These handy tricks will help you use your body parts to measure any space – it may look silly, but we promise it works!

  • Do you know exactly how tall you are? Lay on the floor to work out the dimensions of your room – you could even get different family members involved to give you a choice of heights!
  • Work out how many inches your shoe size is (there are plenty of tables online) and work out the length of something by walking toe to heel. For example a UK size 7 is 9.875 inches (25.1cm). Make sure you do it a few times to get the correct measurement, even if it is a bit time consuming.

Wrap a piece of string around your furniture and mark it, then take a ruler out and measure its length. Quick and simple!

 

Image Credits: WikimediaWikimedia

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Simple steps for decorating your bedroom on a budget

Simple steps for decorating your bedroom on a budget

Moving into your first home is an exciting time. Independence, freedom, the sense of accomplishment. It’s your own space to decorate and get exactly to your liking. Decorating your house for the first time can be daunting task and expensive, so you’ll want to take things one room at a time. To kick things off, we’ll begin with the bedroom and provide our top three tips to keeping within a budget.

Choosing a colour scheme

If, as is the case with many people, you think visually then you may want to start planning on a mood board. This process will help you organise your thoughts so you don’t get overwhelmed. You can physically create this on a cork board using magazine clippings etc. or you can join the modern world and achieve the same effect online for free. With social sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, you can build up a virtual mood board with infinite space and resources.

Colour is everything; you can empty your bank account to make your bedroom look right, but get the colours wrong and you may as well be burning that cash. Make it easy on yourself and use the 3,5,7 rule; this is just a general rule of thumb for placing accessories, artwork and furniture into groups of 3,5 or 7. You can follow this rule when choosing your colours. Begin by choosing your accent colour. Then based on your accent colour, pick two colours that coordinate with it, for example, a forest green accent colour is complemented by baby blue and off white. There are a number of websites you can turn to for colour matching such as Adobe’s Kuler. The benefit of using a colour wheel is that you know the colours are going to complement one another. By choosing colours at random you run the risk of them clashing and later in down the line, so when you begin buying items for your room they won’t work and you’ll have second thoughts.

Choosing a theme

Don’t let the term theme restrict you; a theme could be a style or particular feel you like and want to translate in your room. Your theme should reflect your personality because when it’s all finished you’re the one who should feel comfortable. Your theme doesn’t have to be something loud and garish, and could just be subtle in nature, such as keeping the room light and airy. Similar to having a colour scheme, having a theme will help you be selective with spending money. Visualise your room and keep asking yourself if things fit? Also keep in mind symmetry; you want your room to have balance to it. If you have a lamp on one side of your bed, opt for the same lamp on the other side as well.

The details

The final touches to your bedroom are the clever part, there are so many tricks to save money and it won’t affect the quality or style of your bedroom. The use of wall decals is an inexpensive way to give your room character. Adding cushions is possibly the cheapest way to round off you room, but don’t go too crazy. As a rule, pillows and cushions shouldn’t take up more than half of the bed. Mix it up with different sizes and shapes. If your sticking to the 3,5,7 rule try and employ a level of organisation in the way you display your items to keep it neat and tidy.

It’s all about what you want out of your bedroom, but make sure you don’t skimp on research and planning, as is important that you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. It’s your room, your space and your choice so have fun with it, and when it’s all finished enjoy it.

This article was kindly provided exclusively to First Home News by Shelly Dawson. Shelly has worked in the home decorating industry for over ten years and loves to write helpful advice articles in her spare time. 

Image used under creative commons courtesy of jinkazamah.

 

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Five ways the budget affects the first time buyer
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Five ways the budget affects the first time buyer

The last budget has now passed before the 2015 general election and this is the time to gain support for what is promised to be an exciting few weeks in the world of politics. But what does this budget mean for the first time buyer? Below are five reasons why the budget is looking after those looking to get on the property ladder.

  1. Save £200 and the government will put in £50

Under new legislation from Wednesday’s budget, those who are looking to buy their first property now have the added advantage of a £50 government contribution for every £200 saved. The savings will have to be put into an ISA account, with persons aged 16 and over able to join.

  1. Up to £3000 to earn

George Osborne announced that the aspiring first time buyer can be in receipt of up to £3000 providing that they save £12,000. This is a massive help to those that really struggle to save for a deposit. The scheme essentially saves you a quarter of the time that it would of otherwise taken to save for a deposit.

  1. It’s tax free

The ISA account that you will be paying into is also tax free! The savings must of course go towards a deposit, but with the added advantage of not paying tax then you’re able to get to the chance to own your own home even quicker.

  1. The scheme can run alongside help-to-buy

Those of you who have signed up for the help-to-buy or the mortgage guarantee scheme need not fear as this proposal can run alongside the initiative. You will need £1000 to start the scheme and can be used for homes costing up to £450,000 in London and £250,000 outside of the capital.

  1. Anyone can join

The good news is that anyone who does not own a property can join the scheme and open an account. This essentially means that couples wanting to buy their first home can claim up to £6,000 when buying together. Therefore if two people are buying as a couple, they could own their own property twice as quickly as you otherwise could have without the scheme.

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7 ways to use colour in your new home
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7 ways to use colour in your new home

When moving into a new home, finding ways to make the property feel like your own is important.

But, sometimes the idea of redecorating a place from scratch can seem overwhelming. One thing that can be said for certain is that taking the time to choose the perfect colour palette for each room can have a big impact on the feel of any home.

Read our top decorating tips and take a look at the infographic to discover what tones and shades would work best in your new house.

1) Think about the atmospheres you want to create

Colour can affect our emotions. For example, shades of blue often evoke feelings of calm, while purple can help to create a sophisticated, dramatic ambience.

It is important to think about how you want yourself and others to feel when in your home, and use those thoughts to choose colours for each room.

2) Begin with your bedroom

Research shows that the majority of us spend a third of our time in our bedrooms when at home. So, make decorating this room a priority so that you put together a relaxing retreat where you can enjoy a good night’s sleep.

The way you decorate your bedroom should depend on how you sleep. Lighter sleepers should opt for pale, lighter shades, whereas heavier sleepers can go for darker tones.

3) Move onto ‘entertaining’ rooms

Next, you should look to decorate any rooms where you entertain guests. If you like to host dinner parties, think about improving your kitchen and dining room, whereas if you are more of a ‘come over for a coffee’ host, the living room should be a priority.

4) Entryways make a big impression

It has been said that impressions are made as soon as someone steps over the threshold of a home. Decorate your entryway in a way that showcases your personality to those walking into your home. People with an adventurous side may want to embrace striking colours, while the more relaxed homeowner may want to opt for pale, neutral combinations.

5) Add colour through accessories

If you would prefer to stick to neutral colours on your walls, use accessories to add colour. Try scattering contrasting cushions on the sofa in your living room, and even in each of your bedrooms. Plants can also help to bring colour to your home – try positioning them at varying heights to add variety and excitement. Colourful rugs also instantly invite guests into rooms with wooden floors, and mismatched vases, ornaments and candles can spark interest. If you’re looking to shake up the look of your home with accessories, whilst sticking to a budget, check out what discount retailer TJ Hughes has to offer.

6) Don’t be afraid to contrast colours

You may not know it, but contrasting colours are often referred to as complimenting colours. Using shades that are opposite one another on the colour spectrum can help to intensify their appearance. For those feeling brave, try using blue, orange and brown together in a room, or even a lively combination of purple and yellow.

7) Try living with an accent wall first

If you want to experiment but are unsure of how certain colours will look in a room, use your chosen shade on an accent wall. This will be easy to paint over if you then decide to go down another route.

Author Bio

This article was provided exclusively to First Home News by Rachel Campbell.

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Home touches for the ultimate spring feel
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Home touches for the ultimate spring feel

We might still be in February, but to the optimistic amongst us, Spring is just around the corner. With the warmer days  hopefully soon arriving on the horizon, despite cold temperatures, the sunshine is just beginning to peek through the clearing clouds. It’s never too early to shake off the misery of winter and implement spring into your home, so with that in mind, here are our top tips for getting an early start on your spring decor.

Kitchen: Cooking with Colour

Many kitchens sport drab matching walls and a spaghetti stained backsplash. A spot of paint can change that. Choose a paint colour like bright orange, yellow or sky blue for one wall or area. A streak of highlight will renew your faith in spring veggies and freshly baked bread. Take your update to the next level by purchasing a coloured mixing bowl, bright spatula, blender or toaster matching the colour of your freshly painted wall. Guests will appreciate your thought to go the extra step in contrasting your stainless steel accessories with a few coloured ones. Your kitchen is going to pop and you can revel in your mastery after just an hour with the paintbrush.

Bathroom: Appropriate accessories

No matter what colour scheme your bathroom is, throwing away the plastic accessories and updating them with rustic things from around the house will make your room a much more inviting space. Update the toilet paper holder with a wicker basket you’ve been using for random bits and bobs. Grab unused containers and fill them with all your cotton essentials. Take an empty vase and fill with freshly cut flowers or some bright artificial ones to provide a real feel of spring. And the ultimate trick for the ladies, a cake stand is the perfect way to show off and keep your makeup organised for a fuss free morning.

Bedroom: Perfect pillows

Decorate with a few spring coloured throw pillows to get your home completely revamped for the summer days. You can recover the old pillows with your own fabric or buy an entire new set. The bed is the staple item in the bedroom, so find your favourite comforter to snuggle up. Really tired of your old room? Cover the headboard with a bright or striped fabric to give off a plush new bedroom aura.

Living Areas: Recover your drab lamps

The simple task of changing a lamp cover will shake off gloomy winter nights and help you to embrace spring. Choosing one piece to change in a room is a quick fix and you’ll see a noticeable difference. Go to your local homeware store to see what colours could brighten up your room. Don’t assume popping pink is your only choice, but a light yellow, bold colour or fun new print could do your home the favour it’s been seeking. Don’t want to buy an entire new lampshade? Choose from hundreds of fabric choices at the craft store. With scissors, adhesive, a trim piece and a bit of patience, you’ll have yourself a statement new decorative item.

Outdoors: Get in the Garden

Plants bring life to a home in every way. The freezing temperatures of January and February have now passed and it’s time to dig up the weeds and leftover foliage of the winter. Spring geraniums, begonias, and pansies are all great summer plants that will continually bloom throughout the warmer months. Don’t have the luxury of a front garden or a home in the countryside? Make room for a few potted plants inside your home on bookshelves and the mantel piece, as will add a feel of spring to your home, even on the rainy summer days.

Photo Credit: jinkazamah via Compfight cc

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Sorting your council tax ahead of moving house
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Sorting your council tax ahead of moving house

When moving home, as we’ve mentioned previously, you’ll have a lot on your plate, particularly when it comes to informing your local authorities and utility suppliers. However what many people struggle to understand is the way in which you’ll need to organise your council tax when moving.

If you’re well prepared, and plan plenty in advance, then the process of paying your existing council tax requirements and closing the account associated with your old home is a reasonably simple process.

Getting in touch

If you’re moving locally and your new home is within the same local constituency, then it might be as simple as switching your old address for your new one. If your new home isn’t located within the same district, setting up your new account simply requires you to make a quick and easy call to your new council and make sure they’re well aware of your new address.

Online

You can even notify them of your change of address online. All you need to do is search for your local authority’s website and find the change of address form in the section of the website that is focused on Residential matters. Obviously, it’s crucial to know that your old council will continue charging you until they’re notified that you’ve left the area. Avoid paying more council tax than you need to by informing them of your moving date ahead of time.

Timescale

This is the reason you don’t want to leave this task until the last minute, as it can take several weeks for your old council tax account to be closed. It depends entirely on the processing queue at your local council, however it makes sense to ‘get your house in order’ ahead of your move. Avoid paying any bills you receive for at least four weeks following your account closure to make sure you don’t overpay. If you’ve overpaid your council tax account, your local council can transfer the credit to the account for your new home. Alternatively, your balance can be refunded and used to pay the council tax at your new property.

What information do I need to provide?

It’s important to make sure you have all relevant details when carrying out this process. You’ll need to provide detailed information on your account and living situation in order to close your council tax account. In order to close your existing council tax account, you may need to provide the following information.

What will my new council tax be?

Council tax is divided into eight bands, from the cheapest A band, to the most expensive homes, which fall into the H band. Similarly to stamp duty, it all relates to the size of your home, so it’s worth bearing in mind that, should you move from a smaller premises to a larger dwelling, your council tax bill will probably increase.

Photo credit: CC image via Gary & Anna Sattler

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Top tips for moving in winter
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Top tips for moving in winter

Moving home at any point of the year can be a stressful time, however moving over the coming months, as we move towards winter, can throw up a range of tougher problems.

Organisation when moving is key, however winter weather conditions can wreak havoc with any pre-made plans. If you’re planning to move in the heart of winter, removal vans can struggle to cope with the icy roads and conditions. If it’s through the late autumn period, you’ll likely have heavy downpours of rain to contend with, and even if it does stay dry on the day of the move, you may have to work through gusting winds, which may cause potential issues when moving furniture.

Back-up plan

If the weather is against you on moving day, make sure you have a backup plan organised, just in case. Removal vans can find it hard to transport heavy loads if there are heavily flooded or snowy roads to navigate. The last thing you want to do is get stranded mid-move, especially if you’re in the middle of a lengthy journey. Make sure you plan well ahead and are able to deal with every eventuality, should the worst strike.

Get your car serviced.

Ahead of the impending move, make sure that your car is running well and has been recently checked over or serviced. This is especially important if you’re travelling a long distance to your new home. The last thing you want to happen is for your journey to be interrupted by a breakdown, leaving you stranded between homes in the cold weather.

Dress warm and have extra clothes in the car

It’s highly likely that, in preparation for your move,  you’re going to be packing  plenty in advance. When it comes to packing your clothes, make sure you leave enough unpacked to cover every eventuality, come moving day.

Set off early

The winter weather and early nights mean that the sooner you can get out on the road, the better. No one wants to be arriving at their final destination late at night, with the dark evenings and cold weather to contend with; so ensuring you’re well organised early in the day is essential.

Take supplies

You might have a well organised plan, with your belongings being transported ahead of you. Make sure that in your car, as you follow in tow, you have all the supplies you need, from maps and navigation systems (in case you get lost), to snacks and food if you’re taking a particularly long journey. Keep all your important documents in a file and ensure it’s in your vehicle, should it be required at any point during the move.

Make sure you have heating and lights.

Ensure that once you arrive at your new home, you have the basics up and running. The cold and dark nature of winter means your new home is unlikely to seem welcoming upon arrival, however having a prior recce and ensuring that your new home has both heating and lights ready for your arrival will help you to immediately settle in.

Quieter season

Despite having to deal with the weather, moving in winter does have positives. The winter season might not seem like an ideal time to be up-heaving your life, but the season does also have a few benefits, as the market is fairly quiet and the reduction in demand can lead to financial savings.

Be friendly with your movers

For the duration of day, the tough aspects of your move will be handled by your removal men; meaning it’s important you keep them on your side. Treat them as an extension to your family for the day, as their help and assistance will make your move much easier. From making coffees in the cold to keep them warm, to offering them food and relief in your new home upon arrival, it’s likely that the more generously you treat them, the happier they will be to carry out all the little tasks that make a move niggly.

Have you experienced a winter move before? If so, we want to hear from you! Make sure you comment below with your top tips, and pieces of advice.

Image credit: Commons image sourced from en.wikipedia.org

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Autumn additions on a budget

Autumn additions on a budget

With the summer now over, and the dark autumn nights drawing in, it’s the perfect time to cosy up in your living room and keep warm. Throughout summer, your home will undoubtedly have taken on an open and airy feel, however as the cold of winter approaches, it’s time to turn up the heating, light the fires and go for comfort, as well as style. If you’re after some great autumn additions for your home, here are our top picks.

Huntingtower Tweed Footstool

Autumn styles are all about getting earthy with your colours. Tweed is always a popular option as the colder months roll in, and whether you’re looking at fashion, or home style, tweed is a great option. If you’re trying to add an element of comfort and cosiness to your living room, this Footstool, available at NotOnTheHighStreet is a great option. Adding extra seating for when you entertain, or easily used as a pouffe, this stylish and smart addition will aid in bringing a closer feel to your home. Adding an element of cosiness is always tough, however by adding this to any unused middle ground in your room, it will help to pull your space together.

Candles

With a lack of warmth and a feeling of darkness, evenings throughout the autumn and winter can bring on a feeling of gloominess. If you’re looking to inject a feeling of warmth and fragrance into the air, candles are a favoured option by many. Play around with colours and scents to turn your place from a dull winter home into one with a truly radiant ambiance. In addition, why not try housing your candles in fun and quirky designs? Lanterns are one popular accessory for the home, and with more creative options than ever, you’ll be able to customise the scent, and look of your home.

Rugs

With colder weather, adding a rug to commonly occupied areas is a smart choice. Areas such as your living room or hallway can sometimes lack character, however to provide a more homely and cosy environment over autumn, incorporating a trendy rug is a great option. When it comes to selecting items, it’s always important to take into account the layout and style of your existing room. A cosy feel throughout autumn and winter is good, however there is a fine line between getting it right, and your room ending up cramped. Make sure your new rug pulls elements of your room together, and isn’t just chosen and thrown down without considering the flow of the space as a whole. Remember, more doesn’t necessarily mean better, especially when it comes to furnishing and accessorising.  

Have you already made a start on your autumn accesorising? We always love to hear your ideas, so make sure you drop us a comment below!

Image credit: CC via Prospect Park Alliance

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Cleaning guide: Tips for cleaning after renovations
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Cleaning guide: Tips for cleaning after renovations

So you’re now a homeowner and the first thing you do is get your house the way you want it. You might not think of it as being the most pressing of matters, but sooner or later, you’re going to want to carry out some renovation work. Whether you’re planning something as simple as fitting an upgrade to your kitchen, or something more drastic along the lines of knocking through a wall to improve the flow of your home; whatever work you’re carrying out, you’ll undoubtedly leave a reasonable mess to clear up. The dust that comes hand in hand with building work gets everywhere and you’ll undoubtedly be finding plaster for weeks after. In order to keep your home clean, and shorten the mess time you’ll have to endure, here are our top tips on how to clean up before the dust settles.

Clear the area

It might seem like an obvious suggestion, but ensure you move everything that is removable. Before your renovation you should remove everything possible such as ornaments, lamp shades, curtains, etc. If you don’t take them away before the renovation begins, then remove them before you start cleaning and clean them separately to ensure you get rid of all the dust and dirt.

Wipe down everything

Use a wet cloth to wipe down the walls, the furniture, the skirting boards, the windows and ledges, the floor, your ornaments, the doors, the door handles, the light fixtures. You might think it sounds like overkill, however the dust truly does get everywhere. You might not think a surface looks overly dirty, but still give it a wipe. The last thing you want is to leave apparent ‘clean’ areas, only for the slightest of dust to begin spreading around your room.

Vacuum awareness

A lot of plaster and dust can damage many vacuums such as a Dyson or Henry, so be aware that they might not last long after the cleaning. It is possible to hire industrial vacuums and these will make light work of your mess, whilst ensuring your household hoover doesn’t get clogged up. After wiping everything down, you need to vacuum as well. This includes the walls, all ledges and the floor.

Give it a mop

Mop wooden or tiled floors after vacuuming. Make sure you mop after vacuuming because it makes the dust wet which the vacuum won’t like, and will struggle to pick up. Mopping should get rid of the last of the dirt but wipe the floor with a dry cloth afterwards to make sure.

Leave the floors until last

As you clean the walls and the windows it’ll cause dust and dirt to fall onto the floor. So there’s no point in cleaning the floor until you’ve cleaned everywhere else. Do it logically to prevent making more work for yourself further down the line.

Keep checking back

After a renovation, the dust can take a couple of weeks to settle so make sure you keep checking back every few days and do a brief clean to stop the dirt building up. After a few weeks do a big clean again to make sure all the building dust is gone.   It may take a couple of weeks and a lot of cleaning but now you are free to enjoy your new renovation without inhaling dust and dirt. Enjoy you new, clean home.

If you’re searching for that perfect house, make sure you check out Keepmoat’s range of ideal homes for first time buyers.

Zayabibu via Compfight cc

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