Blog: 2018

Upgrade Your Home Without Calling In The Builders
If you’re looking to upgrade your home, you might initially think this has to involve some construction projects, whether it's putting in a new bathroom or investing in something 'mega' such as a glass box ground floor extension. But if your budget's not huge and your home isn't in a particularly poor state of repair, rather it's just been a bit neglected, there's a lot you can do to make it nicer, more liveable and, of course, more saleable without calling in the builders. And not resorting to concrete is always the more eco friendly decision.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to improve your home without construction - and the first thing to do is look at your paintwork. Are walls grubby? is paint on doors and skirting boards peeling off or cracked? In which case...
Re-Paint Everything!
Paint, especially good quality brands that produce eco-friendly paints, are not particularly cheap these days, but fresh paint makes everything look smart and attractive again. And if you do the preparation well, ie sand, fill, do a mist coat on walls and apply primer and undercoat to wood, you can splash the cash on the best paint brand you can afford because you'll only need a couple of coats. If you have the budget, hire a professional decorator, but with patience and practice, most of us can do a pretty good repainting job ourselves.   
Install A Library
This may sound a bit of a posh or even pretentious thing to do if you live in a small house or flat, but it is one of the most effective changes you can make to a home environment. And library doesn't, of course, mean a vast wood paneled room with floor to ceiling shelving, rather it can just be a wall or part of a wall given over to books. Because let's face it, homes with no books feel a bit sparse and lacking, while shelves full of books and magazines give a air of sophistication and refinery, and a sense that the occupant is interested in the world. And it's always nice to have easy access to something to read.
So you could commission a carpenter to make some built-in shelving - their skill can be ideal if your looking to keep books under the stairs or in a hard to reach space. But there's lots of great freestanding, modular or lean-to shelving that's affordable and easy to find on the high street or online. And if you're lucky enough to have a tiny spare room that's not really big enough to act as a bedroom, why not designate it your library? And keep a futon roll to hand for visitors needing a bed for the night.
A Fun and Games Room
A games room is another way to accomplish more or less what you do with the library, in that with a simple re-design and a bit of money spent on décor and furnishings you can give you a whole new place to hang out. Of course, 'games room' can mean a lot of different things. If you want to go with a more vintage approach you can read up on home poker nights, and focus on creating an inviting, authentic card-playing environment. Or for versatility get some comfortable seating, buy a sideboard and fill it with games of all sorts. And of course if you’re more into modern gaming you’ll need to get into the tech side of things and figure out how to optimize your space for video gaming. Lots of people love playing games and it's a great way to be more sociable, so if you've got an underused area in your home, think about making it a gamer's corner!
First Impressions - smarten up your entrance
Upgrading the home doesn’t just mean making interior changes. You can also do a lot to the outside, such as repainting your front door and fitting new and modern brassware, and pressure washing front paving stones. And plants are key to a good first impression. so you could put containers full of plants by the front door if there's space. And if you've got a front garden, it'll definitely be improved by plants. Either plant them out if there's soil or put lots of easy care blooms such as geraniums in pots and place them strategically around the space.
There's plenty of expert advice regarding the best plants for an entrance, and, so long as you focus on what’s in seaso,n you can begin stocking the front of your house with appropriate plants in a way that looks artful, intentional and warm. And if you're not a fan of too much immaculateness, consider the slightly overgrown look for containers and window boxes - as long as it’s slightly, this approach can give your home a pleasantly lived-in vibe.
Decoration, Garden, Lifestyle, Outside space, painting and decorating, Trades, De-cluttering
University degree or an apprenticeship to learn a skilled trade?

With the cost of a university education rising, more young people are asking themselves if it's still worth it.

Not every graduate gets a graduate level job and the advice from some graduates is think hard before you apply, because unless you're really interested in your subject or you're taking a degree course that is fairly certain to result in a good career - medicine, dentistry, engineering, computer science, nursing etc - then it could be that an apprenticeship would make more sense. 

Online retailer The Electrical Guys has been looking into the university v apprenticeship debate and it's produced an infographic that compares the cost of a university degree against the merits of training to become a skilled tradesman. Obviously when you sign up for an apprenticeship you start earning straight away. Buy over the long term what are the rates of pay you can expect to earn as, say, an electrician comparied to someone in the world of high finance, for example. 

If your son or daughter isn't academically motivated, nor do they want a job in an office, then learning a skilled trade could well be a better option for them than coming out of university with a £40,000 + debt to the Government..

Bathroom, Culture, Gardening, Jobs, Trades
Top tips to sell your home - fast
By Abby Trow
Selling a home is considered one of the most stressful processes we can go through -  but being prepared and making sure you get your place looking great before it goes on the market can make the sale happen speedily and smoothly.
Estate agent comparison website Get Agent have compiled their top top tips for selling a property, so pay attention if you're among those who are getting frustrated with the time it's taking to get an offer!
Increase your property’s kerb appeal
The outside of your property is the first chance to wow potential buyers and make then keen to see inside. Little things can make a huge difference - such as keeping grass cut, paths swept, moving any rubbish and keeping the bins out of sight. And if you have a hedge, make sure it's neat, not flailing out all over the place.

For a touch of colour, flower filled hanging baskets can frame a front door, while a few bedding plants will work wonders. If you don't have much front garden space, pot plants on window sills look lovely. Flowers really make a statement and provide a focal point for the outside of the property.  With back gardens, decks or terraces, again clean them up. Mow lawns, take rubbish to the recycling centre and have flowers in abundance - either planted out or in containers. If fences or garden sheds are looking dilapidated, mend them and paint them. 

Make sure that windows and doors are clean and in good condition, are clean,with latches and handles are in working order.
Repair and clean
Because property in the UK is so expensive, many buyers want to move into a house that's ready to live in because they simply won't have a decoration let alone a renovation budget. So if they feel there are thousands of pounds' worth of repairs to make, that'll be a big turn-off.

Hence it makes sense to compile a list of all the minor repairs that need doing and either doing them yourself or getting a handyperson in for a day to sort things out. Broken cupboard handles, kitchen tiles or holes in walls are the sort of thing that can be easily fixed at fairly low cost. Things such as threadbare or well-worn carpets are more expensive to replace prior to selling but find some inexpensive rugs and runners to put down on top of areas of carpet that are particularly stained as this could put off potential buyers too. And note that all carpets will look a million times better after a deep clean. You can hire good carpet cleaning machines and using them will be well worth the money.

Estate agents say time and again that the key thing is to have your home looking clean and tidy - yet so often they bring viewers round and are confronted with dirty basins, unmade beds and stuff all over the floor. You don’t need to make your place look like a sterile show home, but a good clean will make it look infinitely more tempting. 
Have everything smelling daisy fresh
Bad smells are known to be one of the biggest turn offs for prospective buyers, so making sure that your drains and sinks are clean, your food bin is disinfected and that your house is aired can make a big difference. 
Estate agents have been recommending pleasant smells to sell houses for many years of course. Fresh baked bread, cakes and muffins are popular but impractical for most home sellers.. however brewing fresh coffee or lighting a citrus scented candle can help express a homely feel during viewings.
If potential buyers can't envisage themselves living in a property, it's harder for them to make a decision. And a key reason why people often find it hard to see themselves in the property is because of clutter. So think order and less stuff... certainly no messy piles of clothes, papers, books etc.
Think about moving out or storing any bulky furniture and try to declutter as much as possible, while leaving some of your personality to shine through. Open spaces and neutral colours often make small rooms feel bigger and make it easier for buyers to imagine their belongings in the space.
A lick of fresh paint
Many home buyers are looking for a blank canvas, something they can customise to their taste, and they're much more likely to be interested by neutral colours than bold ones. Neutral colours also help to make your home seem lighter and bigger and allow viewers to envisage easily how they could adapt your rooms to their needs. Light blues, pale greys and pastel yellows are all good colour choices and provide a relaxing, warm and inviting feel to a room.
Add finishing touches
Make sure windows are dressed properly with blinds, curtains or nets as bare windows make a room feel impersonal and run down.
Mirrors on the wall will make a space feel larger and will bounce light around the room.
Pot plants and vases of flowers around your space will make it look prettier and give a sense of nature and bowls full of fruit also add colour, natural fragrance and generally make things feel healthy. Pretty cushions and throws again add colour and a sense of comfort.
Spend money to make money – updating and conversions
This tip may seem a bit counter intuitive, but spending a little bit of money before selling your home can pay off in the long run. Simple updates such as changing the bathroom tiles or adding new cabinet doors in the kitchen can make a big a difference to the saleability and value of a property. An estate agent can make recommendations on what types of updates and conversions can add the most value, as well as advise you of what prospective buyers are looking for property wise in the local area.
If you have enough spare cash to make a conversion, why not adapt a loft space into an extra room or build a conservatory for some extra space? These types of updates can add value to the house and make it a more interesting prospect for potential buyers.
Find the right estate agent
Finding the right estate agent is key to selling your house quickly and for the right price. The estate agent will value your property, market your home to potential buyers, handle viewings and liaise with solicitors. Finding an estate agent that knows the local area, trends and provide a good service is imperative for a quick sale.
Estate agent recommendations from friends and family are always good to follow up on, however doing the research and comparing local estate agents can help you pay lower fees and get a higher price for your home. Comparison websites are hassle-free and save time as they can quickly give you helpful information about agents in your area, their contact information - and some even provide current information on the local housing market and can put you in touch with your chosen agent to get the ball rolling.
Hire a professional photographer
Whether you're hiring a local estate agent or putting your home with an online agent, a picture paints a thousand words... so don’t cut corners here. Although some agents have their own photographers, many don't, and taking pictures usually falls to the agents themselves. But they're not professional and their images just won't be good enough to make your home stand out. So it really does make sense to get your own photographs taken by a professional property photographer. Expect to pay around £100-200 for half a day and this should include processing the pictures for you.  
Bathroom, Cleaning, Decoration, Gardening, Lifestyle, painting and decorating, Trades, De-cluttering, flooring
Feng shui for 2018

Interested in feng shui...the Chinese system of laying out interiors for the flow of good energy? Priya Sher, London-based feng shui expert, has some tips:

First of all, what exactly is feng shui?
'Its principles maintain that we live in harmony with our environment. Its aim is to achieve balance in your living & working space and maximise your potential for success in all areas of your life. Literally translated feng shui means ‘wind water’. Wind scatters energy and water holds energy.
'Homes are a reflection of their occupants. If any part is missing, neglected or has negative energy then this is reflected in the life of its occupant.'
Top tips:
'The front door should be in perfect condition as it represents wealth. To draw energy to your front door place a beautiful plant and light either side of the door.
The hall represents opportunities, therefore, ensure it's kept clutter free so that the energy can circulate; place coats and shoes inside a closed cupboard so they don't stagnate the energy. To activate the beneficial chi in the hall place a beautiful mirror and fresh flowers. Fresh flowers instantly uplift the energy of a space.
The kitchen is a vital space as its energy represents nourishment and relationship harmony for the occupants. Ensure you don't place the sink and cooker opposite each other as that can lead to arguments between couples, as it creates a water and fire clash. Colours in the kitchen are also an important consideration- avoid too much black and red as that also causes a fire and water clash.
The position of the cooker is important for the nourishment of the occupants - ensure it's not positioned under a window or directly opposite the kitchen or front door.
Ensure that furniture for the living room is in proportion to the space. Don't block any doors with furniture and position the main sofa against a wall to provide the occupants with support. To activate wealth energy place a lamp in the corner of the room (diagonally opposite the room door).
The dining room or table is an important consideration in Feng Shui as it provides a space where you can concentrate mindfully on what you are eating. In Feng Shui we consider the dining space to relate with the spleen which relates to the element Earth, which in traditional Chinese medicine is concerned with digestion. To optimise the energy in this space place a mirror on the wall to reflect the dining table and place fresh flowers on the table.
To encourage a restful sleep, bedrooms must be a light neutral colour and  beds must have a headboard and be positioned with the headboard against a solid wall. Ideally, the bed must not be in line with the bedroom door. Place bedside tables either side of the bed to provide support. Place curvy lamps and lightly fragranced candles on the bedside table to introduce some romantic energy.
The front garden represents your future so ensure it is always kept beautiful. Plant beautiful flowers and plants and always keep it tidy.
The back garden represents both health and wealth for the occupants so ensure it's always kept in good condition. Boundaries/fences/wall must always be well maintained to provide support to the occupants.
Bathroom, Environment and ecology, Hygiene, eco friendly, De-cluttering, eco home