St Albans branch re-opens after refurb

St Albans team

Last week the doors opened at our refurbished St Albans branch, which now includes building society services as well as our estate agency offering.

The branch is on St Peters Street in the town and the photo here shows the friendly team, who are (from left to right) Holly Harper, Khushbu Pancholi, Glynn Pope, Alan Young and Mansi Bhatnagar.

Harrison Murray estate agency is your ‘one-stop-shop’ when it comes to property. It prides itself on people – ensuring that processes are as smooth as possible, taking the anxiety out of buying, selling and lettings.

Whatever customers want Harrison Murray is often able to provide, under the prestigious umbrella of the Nottingham Building Society (The Nottingham).

They can also help with Whole of Market mortgage advice (where a wide range of products are searched, not just The Nottingham’s own) and even home insurance requirements.

Our guide to achieving a swift sale!

spring

Spring is certainly in the air – and with it, a seasonal sense of urgency when it comes to moving home.

Having seen the back of winter, the fast approach of the Easter break and an impending General Election, sellers may wish to ‘up the ante’ and make theirs the property of choice among buyers.

However, there are some tried and tested do’s and don’ts that will significantly increase the chances of a quick sale, say Harrison Murray estate agents.

  • In the first instance, choose your agent wisely. Talk to friends, scour the papers, get recommendations and visit agents to get a feel for their style and professionalism. If possible, choose an agent, who like Harrison Murray, is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
  • Don’t necessarily choose the agent that suggests the highest value for your home, or one that offers the cheapest fee. If the fee is so cheap are they really interested in getting you the best price?
  • Put yourself in a buyer’s position. The memories that make your home valuable to you aren’t going to be shared by the new owner – they will probably be thinking about what they will change about the house at the first viewing.
  • Get out and view some properties yourself. Unless you know how much your next home will cost, how can you decide what to accept for your own?
  • Be realistic about your pricing. Think about the figure you are prepared to accept. Knowing this at the outset will help you to price your home competitively and also make negotiations with buyers more straightforward. Don’t dismiss low offers without thinking them through; a swift sale may save you money in the long run.
  • First impressions count. Look at the way your house is presented both inside and out. A fresh coat of paint can make all the difference. Tidy the front of your house and clean your front door. If you have a front garden make sure it is well maintained.
  • The inside of your house should be as free from clutter as possible, and having a general tidy up will help in preparation for moving. Do all the small jobs you haven’t got around to, such as changing that light bulb and fixing that squeaky door. If a potential buyer is undecided about your property it could be these small things that make the difference between a sale or them walking away.

Su Snaith, Head of Estate Agency for Harrison Murray (part of The Nottingham Building Society), “Getting a property sold is a team effort between the agent and the seller, so owners who show they’re sensible and keen to sell will always be at the forefront of the agent’s mind.”

Desirable Wollaton land the cup

Wollaton - February 2015 Challenge Cup

There was a double celebration in the Wollaton office of Nottingham Estate Agency (NEA) as they landed the coveted Harrison Murray/NEA Challenge Cup in the same week the area was named one of the most desirable in the UK to live in.

Estate Agency Manager Karen Eccles and her passionate, hard-working team got their hands on the impressive trophy after achieving the best overall performance and customer care for the month of February of all 35 estate agency branches (the enite Harrison Murray and NEA network – all part of the Nottingham Building Society).

The presentation of the silverware was well timed. Last weekend Nottingham was named in the top 50 places to live (43rd) in the UK*, with Wollaton in particular receiving a positive mention as one of the city’s most desirable areas to live.

Karen said: “Winning the Challenge Cup for February is a result of lots of hard work and dedication from all of the team. It’s a fantastic achievement.

“We pride ourselves on providing great service and customer care – we know people want to live in Wollaton and it’s really important to us that they get the right kind of expertise, and a welcoming smile, from the off.”

The Wollaton branch can be found at 157 Bramcote Lane, Wollaton, Nottingham, NG8 2QJ. Phone number: 0115 928 0981.

*The Times/Zoopla joint survey

Market Harborough egg-cited by fundraiser

Harrison Murray Bear and Easter eggs

Always on the hunt for new ways to help the community, our Market Harborough branch have an Easter treat in store for the town!

Estate Agency Manager Kameron Hutchinson and his team are egg-cited about their seasonal incentive to bring the business sector and local people together for good causes.

In support of the Welland Valley Rotary Club, Harrison Murray and The Nottingham Building Society gave the Easter bunny a break when the estate agent’s very own HM Bear (pictured) stepped in to deliver eight delicious giant Easter eggs to businesses in the town centre.

Customers and visitors to the businesses, which alongside us (Harrison Murray) include Gildings Auctioneers, GI’s Barbers, The Angel Hotel, Travis Perkins, JS LAW Solicitors, Milos Café and Beauty Spot beauticians, will have the chance to win one of the tasty treats by simply buying a raffle ticket.

All proceeds will be donated to the Rotary Club, which helps Dementia Harborough and The Bower House, which provides a counselling service.

The Harrison Murray winner will be presented with the egg when the fundraising stunt ends on 27 March 2015.

Kameron, who hatched the idea to raise money for good causes and to profile local businesses, said: “We wanted to do something that could involve pretty much everyone, and present people with several opportunities of winning – hence the eight eggs – for minimal effort, but with maximum impact for charity.

“Everyone knows Harrison Murray likes to be at the forefront of fundraising, and we do have another couple of events happening in-branch during the coming weeks which our customers may like to get involved with.”

Tickets priced 50p each are on sale from the participating businesses.

Return to sender – 40 years later!

40yr old letter

In what is a busy, fast-moving property world, our Leicester office were stopped in their tracks momentarily by a letter that arrived at their office – four decades after it was first posted.

The return to sender letter, which is twice as old as 20-year-old negotiator Zachary Oldershaw who can be seen with it (above), arrived intact at the Halford Street branch – despite being postmarked 21st August 1975!

The envelope bore the Harrison Murray logo of the time, along with a printed address to The Occupier of 100 Roman Bank in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

The typed letter, on Harrison Murray letterhead, contained details of a proposed redevelopment of the Stamford Laundry premises close to the address, and is thought to be one of many letters sent to local residents informing them of a possible change of use to the site.

Halford Street estate agency manager Zara Laxman said: “We were all very excited and intrigued when the letter arrived in the office only last week – having looked at the postmark and seeing how long ago it was originally sent!

“A member of staff opened the letter and the mystery now centres around its whereabouts for the past 40 years, and what the people at Roman Bank in Stamford thought to the plans at the time.”

If you think the letter – originally posted from the same Halford Street branch address – was intended for you, or you received it by mistake and put it back into the mail system, drop Harrison Murray a line on leicester@harrisonmurray.co.uk

1975 – was the year that …

  • Brian Clough, the former manager of Derby County, was appointed manager of Football League Second Division strugglers Nottingham Forest.
  • Margaret Thatcher defeated Edward Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become the party’s first female leader.
  • A major tube train crash at Moorgate station, London, killed 43 people.
  • The comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released.
  • The first episode of Fawlty Towers was broadcast on BBC2 TV.
  • Dougal Haston and Doug Scott became the first British people to climb Mount Everest.
  • Former racing driver Graham Hill, 46, died in an air crash in Hertfordshire.

Don’t overlook the garage when selling

Garage

Storing the family’s bikes, the BBQ or even a few bottles of booze – what do you use yours for?

In a property climate where every space counts, sellers are being urged not to overlook the garage when selling their home, in light of a new report about just what Brits hoard behind that heavy door.

Gone are the days it seems of using the garage to protect your car from the elements, as 42% of UK homeowners say they never park their vehicle in the garage.

More than half of us (56%) don’t use the garage for the purpose it was originally intended for – using it as a storage place from everything for our decorating to gardening equipment.

Others plan to convert the garage to make space for an office/workshop, creating a bigger kitchen, adding an extra bedroom or providing a larger garden.

But however sellers use theirs, we are encouraging them not to overlook the garage when it comes to putting their home on the market.

The house may be clutter free, freshly painted, sparkling clean and ready for potential buyers to walk in the door – but while most sellers will happily spruce up their home and even their garden ready for a sale – many forget about the garage.

Su Snaith, Head of Estate Agency for Harrison Murray (part of The Nottingham Building Society), said: “In this day and age, it is fair to say that the garage is used less and less for its intended purpose of storing a car.

“The modern family has a range of uses for the garage. While the car stays parked on the drive, the garage offers the chance to use that extra space as a play area, an additional domestic area for tumble dryer or chest freezer or just a secure place to store garden tools or cycles.

“An integral garage could provide future extra living space, as the family’s requirements alter, subject to local planning regulations.”

Su added: “At some point, the prospective buyer will want to look in the garage, so don’t be tempted to use it as a place to store unwanted items from the house! Show it off to its true potential – it’s a valuable space.”

Top tips to prepare your garage for sale:

De-clutter. This serves as a good exercise for getting rid of unwanted items before you move to a new house, and saves the expense and time of taking it with you.

  • Try to make your garage look bigger by moving everything off the floor and onto shelves or hooks.
  • Make sure that all flammable items, tools and chemicals are stored away and out of reach of children.
  • Dust everything – as you would another room in your house – and remove those spider webs.
  • Make sure floors are clean, removing any oil stains.
  • If possible, apply a new coat of paint – preferably a neutral, light colour to make the space look bigger.
  • Ensure the garage door is working properly – and that it looks as good as the rest of your house, giving it a fresh coat of paint if necessary.
  • If you don’t already have one – install a smoke detector in your garage.

According to the survey * these items are among the most common to be found in garages:

  • Paint or other decorating items  – 71%
  • Tools – 67%
  • Gardening equipment – 53%
  • Lawnmower – 45%
  • Cycles – 38%
  • A freezer – 30%
  • Old household furniture – 30%
  • Wellies – 30%
  • BBQ – 26%
  • Alcohol – 18%

* Source: The Co-operative Insurance.

Is your kitchen king with potential buyers?

Kitchen

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

little-house-big-house

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