Make the smart move towards a more environmentally friendly home

If you are looking to sell your home before autumn kicks in, are there any ways you can ‘go greener’ to further boost its appeal to potential buyers – and save money?

It is well known that older properties are not as energy efficient as new build homes, but there is nothing to stop you from going all out to make your home as energy-smart as possible.

Here we share the views of the National Association of Estate Agents – who say there has never been a more important time for homeowners to help the environment.

Our Head of Estate Agency, Su Snaith, said: “Technically we are still in summer and the weather is mild, so people naturally don’t want to think about autumn and winter just yet.

“However, by putting a few measures in place now, particularly if you are looking to sell your home, then you and your buyer could be reaping the benefits of taking energy efficient action early and heading off any larger than necessary bills this winter.”

- Check your loft insulation is thick enough and in good condition. A depth of between 220mm and 270mm (depending on materials) is recommended. Loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and double-glazing can all help protect your home and save money on heating bills. You may be eligible for a grant to help with some of this work.

- Bleed radiators to get rid of any air inside which may lead to increased bills if the water can’t heat up effectively.

- Turning the room thermostat down by just one degree can save around £75 a year.

- Energy efficient light bulbs use less energy and last up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs.

- Turn off household appliances such as microwaves, TVs, videos, music systems, and computers when not in use, as they continue to use energy when they are left on standby.

- Defrost your fridge frequently and check the door seals. When buying new white goods, try and purchase more eco-friendly models.

- In good weather, dry your clothes outside rather than using a tumble dryer. But if you do need to dry your clothes indoors, use a clothes rail instead of a radiator as this stops the heat from reaching the rest of the room.

- If you live in a hard water area, limescale can affect the efficiency of your kettle. Look out for a buildup of limescale in your kettle and treat with vinegar or descaling solutions.

- Insulate your hot water cylinder – a well-fitted tank jacket could save you around £20 to £30 a year, more if you heat your water electrically. Insulating the hot water pipes will also save more energy, and can help your taps to run hot more quickly.

- Save water – take a shower! If everybody in your family of four replaces one bath a week with a five-minute shower, you can save up to £15 a year on gas bills and up to £25 on water bills (if you have a water meter). Save even more money by replacing an inefficient showerhead with a water-efficient one.

- Go greener in the garden by using a water butt to collect surplus rainwater.

- If you are giving your interior a spruce up or lick of paint, why not consider a green alternative when it comes to the decorating by using paints that are kinder to environment.

Lots more tips are available from the Energy Saving Trust website

Why new mortgage rules are nothing to fear

What is it about the initials MMR?

MMR, for years, was synonymous with the much maligned and misunderstood measles, mumps and rubella jab that made so many parents anxious because of the possible side-effects of the vaccine in their children.

Now MMR is bringing up worry bumps in home buyers.

Believe the headlines and MMR (the Mortgage Market Review) – a tightening of lending rules to ensure mortgages are affordable to borrowers – is very bad news indeed.

The latest cause for concern, according to some media reports, are long delays in home loan-decisions due to MMR.

Would-be borrowers are apparently “having to wait weeks” to get their mortgage applications processed by banks and building societies, according to The Sunday Times and others. The “slow down” is allegedly being caused by lenders struggling to adapt to the new regulatory requirements and not having enough qualified staff.

But is that true? Are borrowers really waiting up to six weeks to get decisions on loans – and missing out on properties because of the delays? If you are looking to buy a house and need to get a mortgage sorted soon, should you be concerned?

The short answer is a qualified: no.

Mortgage expert Ben Osgood, from Nottingham Mortgage Services (NMS) believes the extent of mortgage delays resulting from MMR is probably being overplayed.

Some lenders may be suffering a backlog in applications as they adjust to the new MMR rules, but most are coping fine, says Ben.

MMR has not slowed down The Nottingham’s ability to process its mortgage applications, for example. As a responsible lender, the Society had sensible rules on “affordability” long before MMR made them a mandatory requirement.

As well as its own mortgages, the Society also offers “whole-of-market” mortgage advice – giving customers access to a wide range of products offered by rival lenders – through its NMS subsidiary. With up to 600 mortgage applications in the system at any one time, NMS are better qualified than most to monitor the market.

Numerous lenders suffer backlogs of mortgage applications from time to time, says Ben. A lender may be swamped by demand after launching a particularly competitive product. They may struggle to cope because lots of staff are on holiday or a flu bug has swept the office. Likewise, MMR may be having some impact on some lenders.

“There is always fluidity in the market. MMR has not changed that,” says Ben. “Problems only really come in when lenders fail to tell customers how long they will have to wait for a mortgage decision. Unfortunately, they are not always upfront with that information.”

A good whole-of-market mortgage adviser, such as NMS, can help you to avoid such problems because they are plumbed into the system. If you need a mortgage within a tight timeframe they will be able to point you in the direction of a competitive deal from a lender able to deliver it.

“MMR is often presented as this big, scary thing,” says Ben. “It doesn’t have to be.”

If you would like to find out more about mortgages or how MMR might effect you, call our mortgage advisers on 0344 481 0013

Read more about MMR and what it means.

Find the best mortgage deal

Avoid an August Bank Holiday DIY disaster – and a trip to A&E!

With the last Bank Holiday of the summer just around the corner, there comes an opportunity to tick off that pre-autumn home improvements wish list!

The long weekend allows many of us to get those DIY jobs done before the end of the summer holidays and before the children go back to school.

And while these can range from relatively simple tasks like putting up shelves, re-grouting the bathroom or sprucing up a room with a lick of paint or hanging wallpaper – don’t let your DIY dreams turn into a disaster.

Each year, an estimated 220,000 do-it-yourself enthusiasts end up in hospital as a result of accidents in the home.

Injuries from tools and machinery account for around 87,000 of these – according to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Splinters, grit, dust, dirt and other particles result in another 60,000 people seeking treatment in A&E, while ladder and step ladder accidents send 41,000 people to hospital each year.

While some home improvements may add value to a home – provided they are carried out safely and to a high standard – others could actually hinder a sale, and see sellers themselves forking out for repairs.

We have a few tips for homeowners to follow to help them avoid becoming a DIY statistic this summer.

Our Head of Estate Agency, Su Snaith said: “If you are planning to put your home on the market, don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to home improvements.

“Numerous homeowners do enjoy DIY, but while they may have bags of enthusiasm and a will to succeed, some may lack the basic skills required to carry out larger and more complex projects.

“Don’t forget that only qualified contractors should alter gas or electrical installations, but
a few simple DIY and housekeeping tricks may have the desired effect – without tapping into the home insurance.”

- Give your home a mini makeover with a simple coat of neutral coloured paint to freshen up walls and paintwork.
- Hire a carpet cleaning machine for the weekend and give your carpets a deep cleansing shampoo; it will make all the difference.
- Give your kitchen cupboards and units a new look with replacement doors and handles – which is far cheaper than a complete kitchen overhaul.
- Replacing the grouting around sinks and baths will give an instantly brighter and cleaner look, making bathrooms and cloakrooms more attractive.
- Make sure the doorbell and smoke alarms are in good working order and replace the batteries if necessary.
- Weather permitting, hire or borrow a pressure washer to make the patio gleaming again
RoSPA, says most common DIY accidents could be avoided through better planning or adequate safety gear like gloves, masks and goggles. DIY’ers should not overestimate their capabilities and should not tackle jobs when they are over-tired.

According to the Home Accident Surveillance System (2002) – the most dangerous tools are:

1- Knives and scalpels (21,300 accidents in the UK each year)
2- Saws (15,100)
3- Grinders (6,400)
4- Hammers (5,800)
5- Chisels (3,900)
6- Screwdrivers (3,400)
7- Power drills (3,000)
8- Axes (2,200)
9- Planes (2,100)
10- Welding equipment (2,000)

So please stay safe this Bank Holiday weekend!

Summer of SportsAid

When most are off enjoying their summer holiday, our branches and SportsAid athletes have been extremely busy gaining medals and fundraising! This year we’re supporting 15 athletes through Harrison Murray with branches tasked to raise £250 a piece to support these youngsters on the road to fulfilling their professional sporting ambitions.

Duston Branch Manager Paula Scinaldi is getting ready to take the plunge and jump out of a plane after hurtling towards her halfway mark on her £500 target. Judo star Jodie Caller popped into the branch to show off her Junior European Cup medal a few weeks ago and offer some words of encouragement.

On the track, both long distance runner Amy Griffiths (Enderby) and para-athlete Julie Rogers (Bedford) are also doing well this season. Amy has just returned from the World Junior Championships in Oregon, US as part of Team GB just weeks after breaking her personal best of 4.15.08 in the 1500m and breaking the English Schools record! Enderby branch have taken inspiration from the 18 year old and completed a half marathon raiaing just under £300 and are currently in training for a mud run!

100 meter sprinter Julie, supported by Bedford branch has also had a very successful few months, smashing her personal best at the England Athletics Disability Championships putting her 5th in the world rankings for her age group.

Chief Executive of SportsAid, Tim Lawler said: ‘We’re delighted to be working with Harrison Murray to help local athletes realise their potential. Our research shows that funding is without doubt the largest barrier to athletes’ progression in sport and this support will help to provide a timely boost to the athletes and their families.’

To find out how you can help, pop into your local branch!

Our March and Wisbech branches use their heads to raise money for SportsAid’s Liam!

Wisbech Branch.

Our branches have been having ‘fun in the fens’ and using their heads to raise smiles and cash from customers to support their SportsAid swimmer, Liam Knight. The branches have been supporting Liam since March and are hoping to raise £250 by the end of the year to help Liam with his training costs in addition to the £750 already donated at the beginning of the year.

Wisbech Building Society Manager and event organiser David Boyce says ‘The idea came about when we were talking about swimming hats in the branch and all of a sudden, everyone was digging out all sorts of headwear with the idea that we could ask customers to sponsor us to wear them for a day or two.’

‘Liam kindly came down to give us a hand rattling tins in Wisbech and yes, I did get to try his swimming cap!’

Charlie Green, Estate Agency Manager adds ‘We have really enjoyed the buzz in and out of the office. I carried out my property valuations wearing my witches hat raising £12 plus a few giggles from unsuspecting vendors.’

The branch have raised around £100 so far. If you would like to donate, pop into either branch.

Liam, from Wisbech, is currently ranked in the UK’s top ten for 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke and is aiming to make the Team GB squad for Rio.

March Branch.

What to do when neighbours don’t become good friends

Most of us – even through gritted teeth – can put up with the odd late night noise or one-off inconsiderate parking on the part of our neighbours.

But what happens when the problem grows, patience wears thin and neighbours become a nuisance, and in some cases their behaviour could threaten the value of our property?

According to latest figures surrounding nightmare neighbours, one in 10 UK homeowners have claimed – or will need to claim – on their home insurance as a direct result of their neighbours.

Around a third (30 per cent) are concerned about obvious structural damage or subsidence on their neighbours’ property – and 27 per cent have suffered from non-neighbourly pet problems.

Another gripe – according to 25 per cent of respondents – is unsightly cars parked in a neighbour’s driveway.

Lack of upkeep to garden and property are also on the list; with complaints ranging from leaving guttering clogged, not repairing roof tiles and overgrown trees.

Top 5 traits to get home owners’ blood boiling (according to MoneySuperMarket’s research) are:

- Noise – including playing loud music, arguing, slamming doors, shouting.
- An unkempt garden
- Pet problems – dogs barking or pets messing in their garden
- Out of control children
- Nosy neighbours

However, despite the doom and gloom you may feel from neighbour problems, we have some advice on nipping the problem in the bud and what to do if the problem escalates.

- An amicable solution is in everyone’s best interest. If you and your neighbour are on speaking terms, try having an informal chat with them – they may not even be aware they are causing a problem.

- If the informal approach doesn’t work or isn’t viable, try contacting your local council or Citizens Advice Bureau. They can offer practical advice and may even be able to provide a mediator to help solve the quarrel.

- Log all complaints – keep a record of loud music, dogs barking, alarms sounding etc and at what time of day or night these occur. Many people may be oblivious that they are causing a problem. Sometimes, people will use the hoover or washing machine at night just to save on energy bills – unaware they are disturbing you.

- If the problem involves overhanging branches from a tree or garden material growing into your own garden, offer to cut them down yourself to save your neighbour coming over onto your property.

- If the problem persists, seek legal action – as a last resort. You can contact your local Environmental Health Department who must take ‘all responsible steps’ to investigate your complaint. Remember though, taking legal action could result in souring relationships and is expensive and time consuming.

Su Snaith, our head of estate agency, said: “While situations between neighbours may not be as traumatic as the dramas on the TV Soaps, a lot of us may have to put up with nuisance neighbours at some point, and it’s not nice.

“Try and nip things in the bud early, no matter how awkward you may feel about approaching your neighbour, and when attempting to deal with annoying neighbours it is crucial to keep your cool and not loose your temper. Having an informal chat with your neighbour and outlining the problem can often be the best solution.”

Talented tots at Market Harborough reach fever pitch with footballing competition

The World Cup may be over – but for toddlers at a Market Harborough nursery, a new pre-season footballing adventure is about to reach fever pitch!

Talented tots from the town’s Little Angels Day Nursery have recently risen to a challenge issued by our estate agency branch in Market Harborough of designing their own football shirts.

Creative and multi-coloured creations scored a big hit with our judges – and the overall winner will have their design made into a shirt later in the summer, with the help of a local sportswear company.

Kameron Hutchinson, our estate agency manager of our Market Harborough branch, says: “This was a wonderful challenge to be involved with as the youngsters and the staff at the day nursery really embraced the project during the World Cup.

“Even though England had an early exit – the children really lifted our spirits with their enthusiasm and their fabulous designs. Judging was a tall order, but we can’t wait to see the winning design made up into a proper shirt!”

Pic caption: Kameron Hutchinson, our estate agency manager of our Market Harborough branch and Lizzie Marriott, senior nursery officer with some of the Little Angels football kits designers and their drawings.

Harpenden’s only female branch manager takes over the reins at Harrison Murray

Boasting a winning formula of experience, local knowledge and industry know-how with new blood into our business at our branch in Harpenden – we are celebrating a new look team.

Heading up the branch is Branka Fenton – recently promoted to the role of branch manager, following nine years of service for us in Harpenden.

And in a double celebration, Branka – who began her career as a weekend negotiator with us – is now the only female estate agency manager in the town.

With a team boasting experience and enthusiasm, Branka’s aim is to make Harrison Murray the number one choice among Harpenden buyers and sellers.

Working alongside Branka is sales progressor and well-known Harpenden resident Sally Fairclough, and newcomer, negotiator Robert Fairclough. Jessica Newby, who has notched up an impressive 17 years with us continues her role as administrator.

The team is supported by ‘weekenders’ Marie Synott, Helen Skinner and Suneela Armstrong, all of whom have lived and raised their families in Harpenden.

Looking forward to her latest challenge and leading the team from strength to strength, Branka said: “We have a new look team in place which I am very excited about, and delighted to be leading the branch forward in my new role.

“We have a long and established reputation in Harpenden, and I believe our professional and transparent approach, coupled with the fact that we are very familiar with the area and the local market, make us the trustworthy choice when it comes to buying or selling your property”.

“Our focus is on outstanding customer service and making the whole process for buyers and sellers as smooth and stress-free as possible”.

Pic cap:
The new look Harpenden team; left to right Marie Synott, Jessica Newby, Helen Skinner, Branka Fenton, Suneela Armstrong, Robert Fairclough and Sally Powell.

Our Melton Mowbray branch clinch our Challenge Cup this month!

It’s three in a row for our branches in Leicestershire – with the coveted Challenge Cup trophy remaining in the county for another month.

In a closely run contest for the month of July, our Market Harborough branch just missed out on retaining the trophy for a second consecutive month – handing over the Challenge Cup to their Melton Mowbray colleagues.

May’s winning team came from our Western Park branch on Hinckley Road.

Branch partner Mike Ford and his team beat off competition from our 19 other branches to clinch the award for overall performance and excellent customer care, and get their hands on the silverware!

Mike said: “We’ve had a fantastic month and really upped our game to regain ownership of the Challenge Cup, which is always a talking point in the branch among our customers.

“We are thrilled to be in such excellent company of that of our colleagues at the other local branches and its great to see the Harrison Murray branches in Leicestershire doing so well.”

Grantham branch raise £100 for SportsAid

Staff at the Grantham branch of Nottingham Building Society & Harrison Murray have kicked off their fundraising for local sports hero Adam Harrison by taking part in the family fun day at Wyndham Park (on the 27th July 2014). Staff from the branch were joined by local legends Robin and Marion as well as local SportsAid Table Tennis star Adam Harrison to promote their ‘spot the ball’ competition and get a few lessons on the game.

18 year old Adam has recently returned from Italy where he has been representing England at international level. He has been sponsored by the branch since March when they handed over a cheque for £750 which they hope to boost to £1,000 by fundraising.

Liam Harrison, building society branch manager says ‘Thanks to everyone that came along and supported us! We had a great day with Adam, Robin and Marion and were secretly quite relieved when Adam beat Robin at table tennis.

‘We have raised just over £100 for Adam but still have a little way to go to reach our target.’

Adam Harrison shares just what the funding will mean for him; “I am delighted to have my hard work recognised by receiving funding from SportsAid and Nottingham Building Society. This funding will allow me to go on a summer training camp and will help to cover some of the rising costs for equipment and accommodation. I am thoroughly looking forward to continuing to work alongside the team in trying to raise the profile of my sport.”

Adam is currently ranked fourth in the UK and has recently represented England at international level. This season he won his first national title in the Junior Boys doubles competition and got bronze in the singles. Adam’s ultimate aim is to get selected for England as a senior.