Is your kitchen king with potential buyers?


A welcoming kitchen is one of the major attractions for potential homebuyers, whether it is the family focal point or a singleton’s stylish space.

For many, the kitchen remains the heart of the home – but does it have the X Factor?

According to research*, a whopping 68 per cent (that’s around two thirds) of homeowners update their kitchen after moving in.

Of those who have spruced up their kitchen, the majority had done so once. However, eight per cent of people say they had done so every one to two years.

But sellers can get ahead of the game and impress viewers with their kitchen first off, with a few simple and cost effective ways of improving or updating the hub of the house.

With this latest evidence reinforcing the kitchen’s strong position, there may be some ways that sellers can maximise the attraction to buyers, add value to the home and even speed up the sale:

Some tips on making the most of your kitchen:

  • Like all home décor, the kitchen will still be subject to personal taste, so if it doesn’t appeal to your buyers, they will refit it on moving in anyway.
  • Spruce up an out-dated kitchen through simple changes like replacing or painting the cupboard doors, handles or taps.
  • Don’t overlook the finishing touches; re-grouting tiles can give the kitchen a new lease of life.
  • Clean and de-clutter. Make sure work surfaces are clean when viewers visit and ensure any washing up is cleared away.
  • Give the feeling of space by removing gadgets out of sight if possible.
  • Ensure any bins are emptied and cleaned.
  • If you have a pet, it may be a good idea to move food/ water bowls outside just in case your potential buyer is put off by pets.
  • Fresh flowers on the windowsill create a welcoming atmosphere and show you care!

Su Snaith, Head of Estate Agency for Harrison Murray (part of The Nottingham Building Society), said: “Replacing your entire kitchen to attract buyers is not always necessary or indeed wise. Often the cost of installing a new kitchen outweighs the value it will add to the asking price.”

Other findings of the research include:

  • 22 per cent of people update their kitchen every five years or more.
  • Those aged 55 or over are the least likely to be happy with their existing kitchen, with only 23 per cent prepared to keep it.
  • Homebuyers aged 35-44 are most likely to be happy to stick with an existing kitchen.

* Source: Ocean Finance (February 2015)

Key to the door is saving, says shrewd Samuel

Jo Bearder & Samuel Ball 3

When it comes to astuteness with regards to savings – and working his way onto and up the housing ladder – there can’t be many people better placed to offer words of wisdom than spritely pensioner Samuel Ball.

The 93-year-old has been a customer with The Nottingham Building Society (of which Harrison Murray is a part) for no less than 70 years.

And, in that time, his shrewd take on saving has not only ensured there’s always been food on the table – it’s made sure there’s always been a nice, warm home to put a table in!

Responsible saving and getting onto the housing ladder often go hand in hand. Where deposits, conveyancing costs and removal charges (to mention just a few of the potential outlays) are applicable it’s important to have a few quid set aside ready for that first/next move.

Samuel’s story is not one of enormous riches, it’s a working class tale that revolves around hard work and carefully saving the spare pennies. As he himself says: “I’ve always saved what I could, without putting us under pressure. It certainly never stopped Gina (Samuel’s late wife) and I doing things.”

Being shrewd certainly hasn’t held Samuel, from Bulwell in Nottingham, back. As well as previously enjoying holidays in Italy with Gina for no less than 15 years on the bounce, it was also the platform for them to get on the property ladder – their first home being a modest terrace house and, thanks to continued saving, a more recent move to a larger property.

To read more of Samuel’s story, and fantastic advice, click here.

Remember, if you have an eye on the property market (and even if you’re not yet at that point in life) put yourself in the best possible position for the best possible move (often the larger the deposit you have will have a positive impact on mortgage repayment amounts) by saving what you can when you can.

Photo: Customer of seven decades Samuel Ball enjoys a cuppa with Jo Bearder, Customer Reviewer at the Bulwell branch of The Nottingham.

Cracking start to 2015 for Western Park branch

Feb 15 - Hinckley Road challenge cup champions

Our Western Park branch in Leicestershire are off to a flying start in 2015 – by clinching a coveted company award.

The accolade of top performing office in January means the branch is now the proud owner of the Challenge Cup – a hotly contested prize among the Harrison Murray and The Nottingham Estate Agency teams.

Under the leadership of Acting Estate Agency Manager Joanne Porter, the Hinckley Road branch rose to the top spot for January, beating off competition from 31 others.

The award is presented each month to the branch with best overall performance and customer care.

Joanne said: “We really had a great start to 2015, and this has been reflected in our achievement over the month – resulting in the Challenge Cup award.

“This is a fantastic achievement for the whole team and for the many customers who use our service.”

The trophy will take pride of place in the Western Park office for the month of February.

Photo caption: Joanne with the trophy and colleagues (from l-r) Rebecca Fenn (Sales Negotiator), Caroline Henshaw (Administrator) and Angela Patsalidou (Senior Valuer).

Downsizing: handy hints when going small


With recent research suggesting more people are downsizing to save money for their retirement or to reduce bills – we have some handy hints for those scaling down.

According to new UK research*, an average of £121,686 can be potentially raised by downsizing to a semi-detached home.

Downsizing to a bungalow is the most common option for freeing up cash, with those moving from a detached house enjoying a £103,715 windfall.

It also shows that over half of people (52 per cent) looking to move in the next three years are considering downsizing.

And with this in mind, we have some practical advice for people planning a move to a smaller property.

Su Snaith, Head of Estate Agency for Harrison Murray (part of The Nottingham Building Society), said: “We know that people tend to accumulate everything from pieces of furniture, kitchen items gardening equipment and so much more over the years.

“However, when it comes to downsizing, a move to somewhere smaller ultimately means less space and storage opportunities. Sorting out belongings before the move will ensure that you only take what you need or have room for.”

  • Plan your packing well in advance, as packing up a large home can be daunting. Think about where you will be unpacking items and which room your belongings will be placed in – using colour codes or labels to help with the unpacking at your new home.
  • Don’t take what you don’t need. Downsizing is your chance to have a thorough spring clean and focus on exactly what you want in your new home, and what you don’t. You may have furniture which is unsuitable or that won’t fit, so think ahead and make sure you have taken proper measurements of your new property so that you don’t struggle on moving day with items that you probably shouldn’t have brought with you.
  • Set up your utilities as soon as possible – checking with your estate agent and obtain details of the previous utility providers so you can call them to set up new accounts. Also, make sure that your phone and broadband services are ordered prior to moving in as these often take a number of weeks to become active.
  • Maximise space – Your new home might have less room so think carefully about the layout, and look at ways you can get the most out of the space available. You will be able to tailor the rooms to suit your needs.

* Lloyds Bank

How to put buyers in the mood

Contemporary Open Convector Wood Fire

With most people now settled into the swing of 2015, the late winter months can provide an opportune moment for buyers to really focus their property search.

The winter market can also bring a greater sense of commitment from both sides to complete the sale, as people tend to make life-changing decisions (like moving house) at the start of a new year.

And with the rapid approach of Valentine’s Day, we have some tips for sellers which will hopefully lead to buyers falling in love with their home – putting them in the mood for a move while braving the cold.

First impressions/kerb appeal

The approach to your house is really important, and the outside of your property is the first thing potential buyers will see.

Paint and repair any weather beaten gates and replace any frost bitten or dead plants with some colourful seasonal bedding plants.

An outside doormat is not only welcoming to visitors, but shows you care about those little extras – as does a working doorbell and gleaming outside light. Make sure you sweep away any cobwebs or leaves from the porch.

Keep it cosy

A warm and well-heated home will ensure that viewers take their time to look around.

If you are expecting a viewing, make sure you allow enough time for your house to warm up. Buyers will most certainly be interested in how the heating system works and how the rest of the home is insulated to keep out the cold.

Highlight any energy efficient aspect of your home, including draught and loft insulation. A recent survey suggests lower utility and heating bills are among the top three areas where people want to save cash.

Run an open house

Speak to your estate agent about holding an open house event. Buyers will often brave the cold if they are serious about moving house, although the prospect of walking the streets looking at properties in the cold isn’t that appealing.

However, sellers can make this work to their advantage by running well-advertised open-house days during the winter. This will help attract committed and focused buyers, who will be grateful for your offer of a warm drink and a slice of homemade cake – and may even put them in the mood to make you an offer!

Lighten up!

It is essential that your home is well lit, particularly with the current darker days. Without much natural light or sunshine at this time of year, it is down to the seller to help brighten up the house to show it off at its best.

Switch lights or table lamps on in rooms during viewings, and make sure blinds and curtains are well pulled back. Safety conscious buyers may also be impressed by outside and security lights, so invest in those if you can.

Head of estate agency Su Snaith says: “We know that there are some really serious buyers out there, who have set themselves a goal of moving early in 2015.

“A welcoming home with well thought-out attention to detail, and sellers going that extra mile, could clinch that all important offer.”

Don’t let the first impression rubbish the value!


Overflowing bins create a terrible first impression

With new research revealing that rubbish can significantly reduce the value of your home, Harrison Murray has some top tips to make the most of a first impression.

Street litter can knock tens of thousands of pounds off the price of a home, according to research commissioned by Keep Britain Tidy.

It says cigarette butts and food wrappers on pavements or overflowing wheelie bins put buyers off a property even before they’ve set foot through the door.

And as first impressions count – whether for a job interview or first date – the same applies to selling a property.

Your home may look palatial and spotlessly clean inside, but potential buyers won’t know that if you don’t get them through the front door.

There are many ways to give your home the X Factor with a few tips on making the most of your home on the outside.

Head of estate agency for The Nottingham Estate Agency (of which Harrison Murray is part), Su Snaith, says: “We are all aware of the on going challenges within the housing market and the stiff competition among sellers to get the best price for their property.

“While this latest report is somewhat saddening, our own sellers are able to bring the wow factor to their front door.

“When people buy a property, is it usually with their heart and not their head – so first impressions are very important – whether it be the street leading up to the property or the approach to the property itself.”

Su added: “Winning over the potential buyer or viewer with something that is pleasing to the eye makes all the difference. Attention to detail is so important.”

Simple kerb appeal tricks and tips that won’t break the bank:

  • If you’ve got a wooden front door, give it a lick of paint or varnish to spruce it up while protecting it. The same applies to gates
  • Clear cobwebs from the porch area and from around the doorbell and outside light
  • Invest in good outdoor lighting, keep it clean and fit an energy efficient bulb
  • Clean windows regularly
  • Have the number of your house clearly displayed – buyers will get annoyed if they can’t find the property easily. And if the numbers need replacing or updating, consider shiny new chrome ones
  • To ensure buyers aren’t put off by parked cars outside your home. Politely ask neighbours to move them temporarily and move wheelie bins out of sight
  • Brighten up the entrance with some colourful potted plants

Great sport Paula takes the leap

Paula Scinaldi parachute jump

Paula lands safely back on terra firma

Duston Branch Manager Paula Scinaldi bravely took part in a daredevil parachute jump last weekend to raise money for British judo champion and SportsAid star, Jodie Caller.

Previous jumps had been cancelled due to inclement weather but despite an incredibly icy day, Paula managed to take to the skies at 14,000 feet to complete her jump and take Duston’s SportsAid fundraising to an impressive £530.

Before taking the leap Paula was given a pep talk from Jodie herself who took time out from her busy schedule to come and watch the jump, which saw Paula in freefall for around 60 seconds before engaging her ‘chute.

Following a run of success at junior level, 18-year-old Jodie finished 2014 by winning gold at the Junior British Championships and an impressive silver medal at the Senior British Championships.

These results mean that Jodie is automatically on the Junior and Senior Great Britain Squads for 2015 and is well on target for the Rio Olympics. All cash raised will help Jodie travel to training and competitions.

Congratulations to both Paula and Jodie!

Paula & Jodie

Olympic hopeful Jodie (left) chats to Paula before the jump

Mayor officially opens Ashbourne branch

Ashbourne 3

The Mayor of Ashbourne cuts the ribbon to officially open our Ashbourne branch, watched by The Nottingham’s Chief Operating Officer Simon Taylor (centre), Building Society Manager Sian Harris (right) and mascots Maid Marian and Robin Hood.

The Mayor of Ashbourne, Councillor Sandra Spencer, cut the ribbon to officially open our new branch in Ashbourne on Friday (23 Jan).

In a short speech she praised The Nottingham Building Society and Harrison Murray for opening the new branch, when so many competitors are closing, and wished everyone at The Nottingham continued trading success.

Our Robin Hood and Maid Marian mascots were also on hand and proved to be very popular with old and young alike.

There was also a nice surprise gift from The Salvation Army – who are based next door to the branch – when they presented colleagues with a teddy bear dressed as Robin Hood, which is now proudly on display.

The Chairman of the Ashbourne Aztecs junior football team, Julian Burton, also popped in to enjoy the celebrations as the branch are sponsoring the side – who are currently top of the league!

The Mayor was joined by her consort, Martin Spencer. Also present at the event were Simon Taylor, The Nottingham’s Chief Operating Officer, Area Managers Diane Walters and Richard Bocock, Sian Harris, Building Society Manager, and Paul Westmoreland, Harrison Murray Manager.

Ashbourne Aztecs 2

Ashbourne Aztecs Chairman Julian Burton (second right) joins in the celebrations at the branch opening.

Ashbourne 2

Many thanks to our Ashbourne neighbours, The Salvation Army, for kindly presenting us with this Robin Hood teddy – which is now on display in-branch.

Lower heating and utility bills on householder wishlists


Saving money on heating and electricity are two of the top three savings which British householders aspire to make in 2015.

A new survey reveals reducing expenditure on heating bills is the second most popular saving (41 per cent) after lower food bills (46 per cent). Third on the list was a desire to slash electricity bills, at 29 per cent.

Head of Estate Agency at The Nottingham Building Society (which includes Harrison Murray and the Nottingham Estate Agency), Su Snaith, said: “This is a very timely reminder that people should think carefully about their own energy use and potential savings at this time of year.

“In particular, those who have a property to sell will want to demonstrate, if asked by a potential buyer, running and utility costs – which can easily be reduced with some simple but highly effective measures.”

In line with the Energy Savings Trust, Harrison Murray have some top tips to help cut down on the bills and winter smart your home:

– You can save around £43 a year just by using your kitchen appliances more carefully.
– Set your washing machine to wash at 30°C.
– Use a bowl to wash up rather than leaving the hot tap running. Don’t fill your kettle up every time, only boil the amount of water you need.
– Turn the room thermostat down by just one degree – it can save around £75 a year.
– Use energy efficient light bulbs that last up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs.
– Consider draught proofing your home. Figures show a fully draught proof home could save around £20-£30 a year. Don’t forget to keep doors closed in rooms you are using to keep the heat in.
– 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. A typical household can save between £45 and £80 a year just by remembering to turn off appliances left on standby.
– Defrost your fridge frequently and check the door seals.
– Boilers account for around 55 per cent of what is spent on energy bills in a year – it may be a good idea to get it serviced regularly.
– If you have a standard shower it will use around 40 per cent of the water required for a bath. Some water companies are giving showerheads away for free. Contact your water company to see if you are eligible. By installing a water efficient shower head, a family of four could save around £65 a year on gas for water heating, as well as a further £95 on water bills if they have a water meter.
– Bleed your radiators to get rid of any air inside which may lead to increased bills if the radiators aren’t working efficiently.
– Homeowners with a tile or slate roof need to check that there are no loose tiles or slates. When the wind is strong, a loose tile can easily be displaced and that will let in the damp. You should repair or replace any broken or missing tiles immediately.
– If you notice damp, dry out the affected area or use a de-humidifier to help stop condensation. If there is a lot of condensation in your house, it can harm paintwork and cause black mould spots.
– Check that your loft insulation is thick enough and in good condition. Loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and double-glazing can all help protect your home and save you money on heating bills.

To find out more about how to protect your home, call into any of the Harrison Murray or Nottingham Estate Agency branches or click here.

Lock out opportunist thieves

Burglar Breaking In To Home At Night Through Back Door

Thieves are using keys hidden under the mat, or in other easily accessible places, to burgle homes across the country – according to new research.

Thousands of homeowners are being burgled by opportunist thieves with their own house keys which have either been stolen at an earlier date, or found in a hiding place at the property.

Crime figures suggest more than 6,000 burglaries in 2014 involved the culprits gaining access to the property using keys as opposed to ‘breaking in’.

We have some practical tips and advice for homeowners when it comes to security, particularly in the winter months.

Head of Estate Agency at The Nottingham Building Society (which includes Harrison Murray and the Nottingham Estate Agency), Su Snaith, says: “Despite the obvious security risks, leaving a key hidden outside the property under a mat or a plant pot is an age old tradition.

“However, we would strongly advise homeowners to either leave a spare key with a neighbour or family member, and of course in the case of them having their property on the market, with their estate agent.”

Figures show that:

29 per cent of Brits admit to leaving a spare key hidden outside the property.
The most common places to hide a key are; under a plant pot (19%), bin (13%), rock or stone (13%) doormat (10%) and even under a garden gnome or ornament (8%).

Su adds: “With Spring still a way off, we do still have the dark morning and early evenings, but we aren’t suggesting that people live in fear.

“It is simply about adopting a practical, common sense approach in assessing safety measures in your existing or new home.”

– Lighting. Consider installing motion-sensitive lighting fixtures above front doors, porches, garage doors and entrances to back gardens. Fit timers to indoor lights when you are out for the evening or going on holiday.
– Codes. If you are moving into a new property, familiarise yourself with the alarm and set a new passcode.
– Securely bolt or padlock side/back gates.
– Be letterbox aware. As vehicle theft becomes more sophisticated and often to order, thieves turn to letterboxes to obtain keys. Make sure you put these and other valuables out of easy reach and sight of the front door.
– Put your mark on valuables with a UV pen – a discreet way to identify your items if they are stolen.
– Sheds. Many sheds are used to store cycles, garden equipment and tools. Ensure you have a sturdy padlock on your shed door. The same goes for your garage.
– Don’t get caught out online. Be careful about what personal information you divulge on social media. Opportunist thieves are turning to social to target unsuspecting victims, so don’t give too much information away regarding your whereabouts. Never reveal that your property is empty
– Be a good neighbour and join the local Neighbourhood Watch group. If you are new to the area, this is also a great way of getting to know your neighbourhood and meeting new people.