How to make your home pet friendly

Many landlords have strict ‘no pets’ policies meaning renters are forced to live without a furry, loyal companion in their home. Once you become a homeowner, you may therefore be tempted to rush into buying a pet, but there are many factors you need to consider before you adopt a Pug or Labrador! The main one being ‘is my home pet friendly?’ Here’s what you need to do to make sure it is…

Fur babies

  • A good rule of thumb when pet-proofing your house is to use similar health and safety measures as those you’d use for a baby or toddler. From hiding electric cables behind appliances to not leaving lit candles out, do a risk assessment around your home and try to spot all potential hazards!
  • Putting child locks on your kitchen cupboards can prevent a variety of incidents! Many every day food items, such as grapes or chocolate, are highly toxic to dogs so it is essential you lock your cupboards to avoid tragedy.
  • If you hpugave a small or young pet, invest in a child’s stair gate to avoid any nasty falls as they learn how to navigate the steps. Alternatively, you can pop it on your kitchen door to keep out any hungry pups!

Decorate for your dogs

  • Cream carpets and expensive sofas may be your décor of choice, but with a pet (especially a dog!) it may prove less than practical. Good quality wooden flooring or tiles are much easier to clean, especially when house training, and doesn’t show up those pesky dog hairs!
  • When buying a new sofa, make sure you get one with removable covers so they are easy to clean. Choosing a natural colour is also great at hiding that summer fur shedding.

Glorious garden

  • Your garden should be your pet’s paradise. Be sure that it is completely safe by making it fully fenced, with no gaps and potential repair work needing to be done. This not only protects your pet from escaping, but also lowers the risk of your beloved friend being stolen.
  • Prevent a tragedy by making sure your garden is also completely poison-free. Avoid putting down slug pellets and look out for any hazardous plants that could make your pet ill, even cocoa chips in gardens are highly poisonous to dogs who mistake them for chocolate due to the smell.
  • Make sure that all ponds are covered; your dog may like a dip in the sea but for don’t expect your smaller animals to be good swimmers!cat

Safety first

Just as with children, make sure that you keep your house as safe as possible by closing windows and closing appliances such as your oven. Cats are notorious for finding cosy spots to sleep the day away in and can easily be missed while snoozing in the washing machine. The same is applied to open windows with many cats having serious or even fatal accidents by falling from a great height.

Do you have any helpful advice on how to keep your home pet friendly? Pop your tips in the comments below.

 

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Bathroom hacks you can’t live without

towelsBathrooms can be a nightmare – from a lack or storage leading to stray toiletries and towels to endless cleaning difficulties. To ease the pain, here are some handy hacks sure to transform your bathroom into your favourite room of the house.

Get yourself organised
Unless you are extremely lucky, most bathrooms are limited in size. This can make storage solutions a big issue, leading to some very frustrating clutter. Here are some quirky but helpful ways to make the most of the space you have.

  • Wine rack towel holder – do you have a wine rack that you never seen to fill? By screwing it to your wall and rolling your towels instead of folding, you can create a stylish towel rack.
  • Hang your towels here – there are a whole host of towel rack alternatives out there (if you don’t have a wine rack knocking about). Give your bathroom some personality by painting old cabinet doors or coat hooks to match your colour scheme. Attach hooks on to a shabby chic headboard for a Parisian feel, even attach hooks on to a surf board for a fun beach vibe – the possibilities are endless.
  • Let them eat cake – do you own an attractive cake stand but haven’t got round to baking those cupcakes yet? Place it in the bathroom as a great storage solution for your small bottles of lotions and soaps.
  • Never lose those pins – are you always trying to recreate the perfect up do but keep losing your hair grips? Stick your pints to a self-adhesive magnetic strip which can nestle comfortably underneath your bathroom mirror. Potential hours of searching solved in an instant!

Amplify your sound
Do you like to relax in the bath with your favourite tunes, or are you into a bit of shower karaoke in the morning? Amplify the sound in your bathroom by placing your music device or phone in your sink – just make sure you turn the taps off first!

Save on ironing time
If ironing is at the bottom of your favourite chores list then this hack will save you time and stress.   By closing your doors and windows and having a hot shower, the steam in the room will help de-wrinkle your clothes.

Keep it cleacleaning tapn
Struggling to keep your bathroom clean and finding that commercial products just don’t cut it? Try out some of these more traditional methods that even Kim and Aggie would approve of:

  • A mix of vinegar and baking soda will do wonders for your toilet without resorting to using bleach. Just had a party and have leftover cola? The acidity in the drink works wonders in dealing with lime scale.
  • Sprinkle some salt on a grapefruit and use it to scrub your bathroom free of soap scum. Not only will it end up smelling delicious, you are once again avoiding using any dangerous chemicals.
  • Struggling to clean your shower head? All you need to do is pop some vinegar and water into a plastic bag and submerge the shower head in it for 30 minutes, securing with an elastic band. Rinse afterwards with hot water for sparkling results.

Do you have any more helpful hacks for the bathroom?   Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credits: FlickrPixabay

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What can first time buyers expect to get for their money?

 

It’s no secret that getting on the first rung of the property ladder can be an extremely difficult task, with many first time buyers struggling to meet the high costs involved with purchasing their first home.

According to Rightmove first time buyers can now expect to pay an average of £169,414 to get their foot on the ladder – that’s an increase of 7.6 per cent on last year’s figures. A recent report by The Independenlondon flats 2t also revealed that unaffordable housing is forcing first time buyers out of the home towns they’ve grown up in and love.

So, what can first time buyers expect to get for their money?

London living

Reports claim that those hoping to buy in the notoriously expensive London need to be earning a whopping £77,000 a year to afford the capital’s average house price of £384,856. However, if the national average of £169,414 is more in your price range, you’re likely to be looking at a one bedroom flat in north London or The Isle of Dogs. The sizes may be “bijou” but many would argue that the lack of space is a small price to pay for the opportunity to live so close to the big city and all it has to offer.

A quiet lifeisle of wight
If you enjoy the open air, a slow pace of living and love the sea, perhaps a house across the Solent may be of interest?  You can buy a spacious three bed semi  in the more rural/coastal parts of the Isle of Wight, offering outside space and with a beach never more than 20 minutes away. You can expect to get a lot more for your money than if you buy around the nearby commuter belt of the south east.

 Go up north
Moving further up north to Cumbria, you could enjoy a three bedroom detached property in areas such as Wigton or Windermere. Prices generally are lower in the north with many areas such as Leeds in Yorkshire or the suburbs of Newcastle offering semi-detached or terraced properties with a garden for the average asking price. However, you may find that prices begin to rise the closer you get to the city centre – notably in the larger cities such as Leeds, where you could possibly purchase a two bedroom apartment for the same price as a house several miles down the road.

 How are you finding prices in your area? Do you plan on buying closer to home, or do you have to look elsewhere for something more affordable?

Image Credit: GeographGeograph

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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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Five top tips on how to update your living room

 

After years of enduring magnolia and off-white walls in your rented properties, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choice whilst deciding how to update your new living room.  It may seem like a daunting task, but we have compiled some simple yet effective tips that can help:

Discover new lighting
table lamp ikea

Different types of lighting can have a huge impact on the mood of the room.  Light that is too harsh and bright could make the room feel clinical and cold, whereas softer lighting will create a warm and inviting atmosphere perfect for cosy nights in.  A well lit room can be achieved easily by using lower watt bulbs, installing a dimmer, or strategically placing lamps to benefit the levels of light your room receives throughout the day.

You can find a wide range of affordable yet stylish lamps perfect for any modern living room in high street retailers such as Next, or John Lewis.

Paint in wonderful white

Choosing whitwhite walls e paint to redecorate with may not seem like a drastic change to your living room, but this classic look will never go out of style.   To  avoid a sterile feel to the room, make sure you use different textures in your room to give it a more homely feel, such as cushions or t  throws.

You could also choose a colour pallet to accent your room with, making future changes to the room more practical to deal with over the years.

 Writing on the wall

Personalising your living space has never been easier with a range of decorative wall quotes, words and letters to choose from.  Add words and  images to your wall using artistic vinyl graphics, or frame an inspirational or humorous quote to hang as a centre piece.  Online retailers such as Not  on the High Street or Etsy have some fabulous designs which can instantly transform your surroundings.

Change the dynamics

Change the dynamics of your room by moving around your furniture to create more space and making the most of the changing light conditions throughout the year.  You can also do this by changing the position of your radiator or removing a door to create more options whilst deciding where to place your furniture.

Go green plant

Add a splash of colour to your living room whilst also improving your mind and health, by introducing house plants and flowers.  This will create a fresh and natural feel to your room, instantly changing the atmosphere and bringing life to your home.

 

 

 

 

Image Credits: FlickrIkea

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Make your kitchen your own in your first home
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Make your kitchen your own in your first home

Buying your first property can really ignite your creativity, as you have the opportunity to think about how to transform the brand new house into your very own home.

With the kitchen being the heart of any home, it is important to dedicate time to decorating the space to make it somewhere where you feel happy and comfortable. Take a look at some of the things that you should consider when improving the room to help you make it truly your own.

1) Do you have a budget in place?

Setting the right budget is the first important step to take. You need to figure out how much you can actually afford to spend, to help you determine what work can be carried out.

When putting together a budget, every cost should be considered. Units, worktops and appliances, as well as the installation, plumbing and electrics all need to be accounted for. The average cost for a new kitchen is £8,000, but it is crucial to allow for an extra 15% in case you need emergency funding.

2) Should you improve or remove?

Having worked out how much you can afford to spend, consider whether it is best to update your current kitchen or start completely afresh. Take a look at what is there, and make a note of what you do and don’t like, thinking about whether you would want to keep any existing part of your kitchen.

If there are a number of things that you do like, it may be worth looking at ways to update and improve the space around the features. This could help to save you a lot of the time, effort and money that it can take to completely renovate a kitchen.

3) Think about the layout

Look at the layout and walk around the space to gather a rounded perspective of how your kitchen impacts you. Does the layout flow, and will it work well for you personally? Only consider changing the layout of your kitchen if you feel it will be highly beneficial.

If you choose to completely change the arrangement of the room, think about how you will be using the kitchen. Will you need more worktops in certain areas? Will you regularly be hosting dinner parties? Are there certain elements you want to be positioned closely together?

4) Design and decor

Whether your budget allows you to update or replace your kitchen, refreshing the design and decor can help to dramatically improve its look while allowing you to add your own personal touch.

You can revitalise your kitchen by adding a splash of colour. Many different shades work well in the space – bright, deep colours such as red work to stimulate appetite, whereas an all-white kitchen can help to awaken and revitalise. Other colours that work well are blues, greens, yellows and greys.

Changing your lighting can also allow you to add your own style to your kitchen without breaking the bank. Consider spotlights for a modern feel, and pendant designs for a more traditional touch. Make sure you utilise lighting to accentuate areas of the room you’re most proud of – something like a Britannia Living iconic range cooker gives your room a focal point, and with intresting and different designs, can give your room a much needed boost of character.

5) Add a personal touch

Look to add accessories here and there that truly reflect your personality. Artwork, crockery, vases and tableware are all additions that can help to personalise your kitchen and shape your house into your home.

Author Bio:

This article was provided exclusively to First Home News courtesy of Rachel Campbell, a writer with a keen interest in homeware and kitchens.

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The Pursuit of Happiness: Searching for the perfect first home.
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The Pursuit of Happiness: Searching for the perfect first home.

House hunting is a tough game. House after house, viewing after viewing and offer after offer – it can easily become a mind numbing cycle.

As a first time buyer, the pursuit of your perfect home can be daunting. There are tonnes of ‘how to’s’ and ‘top tip’s’ flooding the internet, but not to worry, we can lead you through the maze!

The first thing that needs to be said is try not to get too bogged down on looks. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, ‘looks are deceiving’, ‘beauty is only skin deep’, we’ve all heard the sayings, but it’s true. Houses can be hiding secrets behind those perfectly painted walls; mould, damp… the list goes on. Falling in love with a home too soon can be a bad idea too; not only could the estate agent get a whiff and make you pay for it, but you could be setting yourself on the path for heartbreak. Ultimately, they do say location is everything. It’s always worth really grilling the estate agent to make sure you’re in the safe zone.

Speaking about the safe zone, have you really researched the area fully? Are crime rates low? A great website for this is crime-statistics.co.uk, it only takes a few moments to pop in the postcode and find out exactly what the surrounding areas are like. Asking neighbours or visiting at a different time of day is always a good idea to get a true feel for the area. Have you thought about what’s nearby? Trekking a mile for a pint of milk isn’t exactly ideal. Go for a look around to get a feel for the area, you might just find the perfect reason to stay!

So what if it’s a bit of a ‘fixer-upper’? No problem, just make sure don’t get yourself in too deep. If you’re a dab hand at DIY and have some cash left in your budget, turning that house into a home yourself is a great idea. But if you’re no good at this, a new build could be right up your street! This is where buying a newly built property can be a good idea.

So whether this is your first buy or not, just enjoy the hunt. It’s about the pursuit of a happy home after all.

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Stamping down on stamp duty
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Stamping down on stamp duty

As you enter the house buying process, you’ll no doubt be tightly managing your finances. With a number of costs and taxes to account for, you could be forgiven for losing track. One recent alteration to the fees you’ll pay when purchasing a new house relates to stamp duty.   In 1997, Gordon Brown revised the stamp duty system in response to rising housing prices as a source of government revenue. Over 15 years later and for much of the same reason, in December 2014, the 1997 system has been revised to become fairer by progressive taxation. So if you are thinking about buying your first home or just an overview of how the new system works, then look no further.

Breakdown:

The good news is that £4,500 is the amount saved on an average price home but how will this system impact on you?

Untitled

As you can see from the image above, for any property up to £125,000 you won’t have to pay a thing; this is very much the same as the previous system. Under the old system you would have been liable to pay 1% on homes between £125,000 – £250,000, whereas the new system 2% is the threshold. However, the current system is a progressive tax where you will only pay a percentage based on the amount you are over any given threshold. This in turn means you’ll be financially better off under this system than the last.

In addition, under the new rate you’ll pay 5% on any property up to £925,000 progressively. The old system would have meant that you’d have paid 3% between £250,000 – £500,000 and & 4% for anything over £500,000. This ensures that anyone buying a home under the £937,000 mark will pay less or the same, treasury figures show.

Paying stamp duty and possible exemption:

Although the system is now a progressive system and is therefore fairer, there are still some ways that you can either reduce paying the tax or not pay it at all.

Paying stamp duty:

It is important to pay stamp duty or a £100 fee could be incurred. Your solicitor usually takes care of this but should you choose to do it yourself, then you need to complete the form and send it off. It is your responsibility to ensure that all documents are completed within the 30 days on completion of a deal.

Think about the band system:

The first thing to do, regardless of the system or not, is to ensure you get the best possible price for the house. This may be the difference from being put in one band to another. For example, if the house was on the market for over £125,000 and you as the buyer was able to get a deal for just under that figure then you wouldn’t be liable to pay anything at all.

Transferring of property:

If you transfer the deeds of your home to someone else, they will not have to pay the stamp duty on the market value of the property. This therefore means you could be eligible to pay less stamp duty if you pass the house over as a gift or leave it in your will.

 

CC image sourced via Google Image free to use search.

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Key information for choosing a removal company
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Key information for choosing a removal company

Moving home is a big step, and likely to be one of the first large scale experiences of your adult life. Such a large event needs plenty of planning, to make sure your move goes through without a hiccup. If you’re unsure what process to go through when looking for a removal company ahead of moving day, here is our guide.

 

BAR

A key starting point is to ensure that your shortlist of candidates are members the British Association of Removers as it shows they’re willing to be held up to a minimum standard. BAR members have minimum standards of conduct for membership which will be in your interests such as legal, licensed vehicles, protection for your deposit and arbitration or free conciliation and in the unlikely event something goes wrong. Don’t run the risk and hire someone cheaper that isn’t going to leave you fully covered.

BAR membership means that removers should pride themselves on customer experience, so firms that don’t invest in holding themselves to high standards probably also lack the funds to invest in their vehicles. Poorly maintained, unlicensed or unsuitable vans are not only a hazard on the journey, but will not be a comfortable environment for your possessions.

They might seem like the cheap and cheerful option, but you’re opening yourself up to a whole world of potential disasters if you opt for the smaller, ‘man in a white van’ firms.

 

What do you need to know when choosing?

It’s important when researching firms to ensure you have all the information you require to make an informed decision. If you’re unsure what details you need to know, check out these key questions.

  • Insurance is key – make sure you know level and type of insurance cover is offered
  • As mentioned above, cover yourself by going with a BAR member
  • Check out the history of the company to make sure everything is in order.
  • With regards to your move, get timings, crew numbers etc.

These are the key questions that will give you a good feel for the company, however it’s also important that you use common sense to make an informed decision. The most important piece of advice is often to make sure that you feel reassured that the company will deal with your move effectively and efficiently.

 

Timings

We understand that with full time jobs, children to look after and other commitments, it can be tough to find time outside of the weekends in which you can carry out your move. However, if possible, avoid moving on a weekend – it’s a premium time to move and prices are costed accordingly, meaning that if you can carry out your move through the week, it will save you financially.


Preperations

You’ll likely think that the abundance of possessions in your home will turn your removal into a huge project, however over the years, you’re likely to have build up quite a collection of clutter and rubbish in your home. Use the move as a fresh start, it should provide you with an opportunity to have a major de-clutter and throw stuff away that you won’t require in your new home.

Do some pre, arranging, even if you do have a removal crew sorting everything on the day. If you’re boxing up yourself, make sure you do it in a logical order, packing like items together.

Finally, don’t forget to be thorough in areas used for storage, like garages, lofts and sheds. You’re likely to spend less time emptying them than you are indoors inside your home, so just make sure you’re vigilant in all areas and don’t miss anything vital. Don’t forget the loft and the shed – all sorts of horrors might be lurking for the unwary there.

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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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