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UK Homes

UK Homeowners Struggling To Complete Interior Renovations Due To Labor Shortages

An industry-wide labor shortage in the United Kingdom is causing a multitude of homeowners to be left waiting for months longer than usual for bathroom and kitchen renovations/installations. The labor shortage is growing due to a combination of Brexit-related issues as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While the pandemic overall has caused a major increase in the amount people have invested in their homes, the demand for labor hasn’t been able to keep up. Specifically, bathroom, kitchen, and room renovations would, on average, take about four to eight weeks to complete before the pandemic, and now homeowners can expect to be waiting at least 12-18 weeks. 

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Damian Walters is the chief executive of the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom, and Bathroom Installations, and recently spoke to the press about the “unprecedented demand for kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and home improvement in general” throughout the pandemic. 

“Lengthening lead times were part of the fallout from the incredible labor shortage. Our organization has been inundated with inquiries from retailers desperate to recruit more fitters. There were a number of problems, including an ageing workforce and a decrease of youngsters wanting to take up apprenticeships. Brexit had also deterred tradesmen from moving to the UK for work,” Walters explained.

“There are not going to be any tradesmen parachuting in from Europe, or anywhere else for that matter. EU migration was a little bit like a Band-Aid that’s been ripped off and the real problems have been exposed,” he said.

B&Q is known as the UK’s largest DIY project chain, and according to their data sales of supplies for interior DIY projects have increased by 13% within the last year of the pandemic, with some of the most popular projects being organizing outdoor spaces, and new kitchen and bathroom designs.

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Global supply chains are still dealing with trading disruptions brought on by the pandemic while demand has continued to increase for these supplies. This is not only bad for the DIY renovator, but for contractors who are still in business but don’t have access to the supplies they need to complete the projects being asked of them. 

The EU has reported shortages in everything from plumbing materials, to screws, handheld and power tools, as well as appliances like washing machines and fridges. 

The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom, and Bathroom Installations has announced a campaign that will begin this fall and hopefully recruit 700 apprentices from the UK’s school systems every year to become apprentices in the construction industry. Without new recruits, according to Walters, the “problem will only worsen, as a third of sole traders are due to retire over the next decade.” 

“We simply haven’t focused on vocational learning, and that has caused huge problems in terms of a gap between the demand and the available labour to do this type of work. Put bluntly, we’ve relied for too long on an ageing workforce who are now looking forward to their retirement. We need to pull out all the stops to prepare a new generation of skilled installers ready to take their place,”  said Walters.

Furnished Home

How To Declutter Your Home As Lockdown Eases 

Now that more of us are getting vaccinated and able to leave our homes more freely, it’s time to bring our spaces back to their pre-pandemic glory, you know, like before we were spending all hours of the day in our living room. 

Dilly Carter is a professional home organizer and self proclaimed “declutterer” who stars in the show ‘Sort Your Life Out’ which helps homeowners organize their cluttered spaces. Carter recently discussed how it’s important to have your home as organized as possible because it has an indirect impact on your mental health. 

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“You wake up in the morning, you tumble out of bed, you try to find a towel, you try to find your toothbrush, you go to the wardrobe, you try to find a shirt that’s been ironed, you try to find a pair of trousers. Your socks are in the kitchen drawer. You stumble down the stairs, trip over some Lego, go to the kitchen, sniff the milk to see if it’s off. And you start work and you’re like, ‘Why am I so stressed?’  This build-up of tiny annoyances is why you need to declutter,” she says.

Carter claims the easiest place to start is an empty room, or by completely emptying out a room. “An artist would never create a masterpiece by drawing over another masterpiece, would they? The next trick is to put back only the things you absolutely need in the empty room. Be as ruthless as you can; the goal is to create as much space as possible. We don’t want to be surrounded by stuff, because stuff clouds our mind and clouds our judgment. We need space to breathe.”

It’s important to also reclaim the spaces that may have been taken over by clutter. “Sometimes a kitchen is a kitchen, but it can also be a playroom, and it’s also a study, and it’s also a front room. That’s why the kitchen doesn’t feel like a kitchen at the moment. So let’s bring it back to just being a kitchen. Let’s take out all the kid’s toys and put them back in the bedroom. You will end up with dedicated spaces that don’t feel encroached upon by the rest of the house,” Carter explained. 

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Begum Zarmann is the UK’s go-to decluttering trend expert who recommends taking photos as you declutter your space so you can keep track of your progress: “Before you start to declutter, choose a small part of your home, like a bathroom cabinet, and take a photo of it. Once you have tidied and organised that space, take an after photo. Why? Keeping a record of your transformations gives you the motivation to declutter more.”

Zarmann also recommends sorting all of your things within four large boxes. “Label them ‘rubbish’, ‘give away’, ‘keep’ or ‘relocate.’ Whether it’s a drawer or a full room you’re tackling, the key is to organize your items into one of the four boxes and to not skip a single item, no matter how insignificant you may think it is.” 

Carter also recommends getting one big box for paperwork exclusively. “Walk around your house with the biggest cardboard box you can find and just shove it all in there. Doesn’t matter if it’s unopened mail, paperwork or files. Whatever it is, get it all into one box. Because then, mentally, you are only dealing with one box. And then when you’re ready to deal with that box, you sit there, in front of your favorite TV show, and you can start going through that paperwork. From that, you will soon have your keep pile, your burn pile, your shred file.”

From that point forward it’s up to you to be diligent when deciding what gets thrown away, what can be donated, potentially sold, or relocated to get actual use within the home.

What Remote Workers Will Be Looking For In Properties Post-Pandemic 

As the pandemic comes to a slow finish, many are realizing they’ll be able to continue working remotely as the world returns to a sense of normalcy. The real estate industry is adapting to accommodate for this new type of buyer that views a proper office space as one of the biggest essentials in a potential property. 

Patrick Carroll is the founder and CEO of CARROLL, a national real estate firm, who also writes about the industry for Forbes Magazine. Carrol recently discussed how “a recent study by the freelancing platform Upwork found that an estimated 14–23 million Americans are planning to move as a result of remote work. At CARROLL, we have seen this directly, with approximately 25% of our residents working from home before Covid-19 compared to 60% now. The key for apartment owners now becomes attracting this newly liberated workforce to their communities.”

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Carroll claims that clients ask about Wi-Fi connectivity almost immediately now when viewing a potential property, so if you’re selling, make sure your internet connection is upgraded. Properties with built-in wireless internet have become a huge seller in the market. 

Properties that also have clubhouses, or separate spaces for conference rooms and workplaces have become a major seller in the apartment market. “These common areas should include more than just a desk, with access to additional screens and HDMI connectors, printers, copiers and even quiet rooms, when possible. We have seen an increasing demand for these large workspaces in our communities,” according to Carroll. 

According to a survey done by Gallup, “the majority of remote workers today are millennials, aged between 25 and 44 today, and 74% do not want to go back to the office full time. Almost 70% of remote workers have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. These are relatively young, educated workers looking to support themselves, pets and families from the comfort of their homes.”

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Pet-friendly leases have become a minimum requirement among millennial buyers, as many have purchased a pet within the past year of the pandemic. Providing on-site, or nearby amenities, like dog parks, playgrounds, open fields, etc. have become another major requirement for buyers. 

The modern millennial buyer also prioritizes flexibility in all aspects of life, so it’s important to find properties that can be adjusted to accommodate what the buyer is looking for. Lease flexibility is one of the best ways to get buyers more interested in a certain community/property. 

“Ultimately, it comes down to being open to offering your residents a personalized approach that will make them feel more comfortable, while allowing them to continue their work-from-anywhere lifestyle.”

“With the many different communities and amenities available for residents, the key to attracting the remote worker resident base to your communities is to not only make the right accommodations, but also to be adaptable and understand these residents’ needs and priorities beyond their work-from-home office desk,” Carroll explained, adding that apartment owners looking to lease out their properties need to rethink what they consider amenities and start thinking of them as necessities.

Office Space

Companies Are Looking For Pet-Friendly Office Spaces For After The Pandemic 

Throughout the past year of the pandemic, our pets have become a source of emotional support, as well as our co-workers, as we navigated what working from home actually looked like. Now, as more and more people are getting vaccinated, companies are looking for ways to welcome their employees back into an office environment, and choosing spaces where their furry friends can continue to work with them everyday has become a major priority. 

According to a study performed by OnePoll in collaboration with the Canfield Pet Hospital, 50% of executive-level employees claim that they are considering allowing their employees to bring their pets to work as often as they please in the future. 59% of executives claimed that they already had relatively loose policies when it came to allowing pets in the office, but would now be “much more flexible” when it came to pet policies. 

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These discussions have become especially important considering how many people became pet owners during the pandemic. Many new pet owners are worried about how their pets, and themselves individually, will react to a normal work schedule that would require one to leave their house every day. 

63% of pet owners claimed that they have anxiety over how their pets will react to a post-pandemic work routine. Luckily, 75% of the executives surveyed said that they themselves have learned about the importance of being a pet owner, and how it actually helped them become a better, more compassionate, business leader. 

The study also found that “among executives who are crafting a specific pet policy in the workplace, 59% say their plans were motivated by employee requests. 58% say they understand that staff members have gotten used to being around their pets all day, and 42% say a pet perk at work would entice employees to return to the office.”

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Brian Garish is the president of Banfield Pet Hospital, who claims that research has shown in the past that dogs in the workplace actually make employees more collaborative and less stressed. 

“We’ve seen the human-animal bond only get stronger during the pandemic, and it’s no surprise that owners are thinking about how they can best be there for their pets when they start to spend more time outside of home. We believe we can advance human health through pet health, elevating societal well-being.”

Employees surveyed who discussed how before the pandemic their workplace already allowed pets in the office, claimed that it often always prompted an increase in employee socialization, and often encouraged more employees to come to work. It also led to an increase in productivity and made employees more willing to work later if it was needed.

How ‘Instagrammable’ Immersive Experiences Are Shaping Commercial Real Estate

Ari Rastegar is the CEO of Rastegar Property Company, a real estate company focused on value-oriented properties. Rastegar recently wrote about how these types of “instagrammable” locations will likely be a major player in rebuilding the industry as the pandemic comes to an end within the next year or so. 

NYC Real Estate

New York Real Estate Surging As City-Life Returns To Normalcy 

After one year of the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to the rollout of multiple vaccines, life in major cities is starting to return to normalcy, as are the many industries that keep these cities populated. Real estate in New York City is beginning to see a rise in demand as prices begin to decrease again. 

In Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens the number of leases that were signed in February of this year beat a record that was set back in 2012 during the comeback from the 2008 economic crisis. “The median rental price—lease value net of concessions—fell at least 11% across those boroughs last month,” according to a new report by Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

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Hundreds of thousands of New yorkers initially fled from the city to head to suburbia when the pandemic began. Within the past few months, however, there’s been an increase in transactions within the cities major boroughs. The coming months are projected to give the city the boost it needs to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Some owners are keeping their properties off the market to wait for more individuals to be vaccinated/ the summer when it’s expected that more individuals will be flocking to the city.  According to UrbanDigs, a real estate insights firm, “in Manhattan landlords took more than 1,800 apartments off the market in February. For their part, renters are enjoying the reprieve from record prices, which peaked just before the pandemic.

According to Douglas Elliman, in Manhattan specifically non-luxury units will be offering the best deals in the coming months, and apartments of three or more bedrooms will likely be the most discounted due to the influx in demand. “The median rental price dropped 22.7% over the last 12 months on those units. Two-bedroom apartments are down 8.9%, while studios are down 19.3%. New signings are up dramatically from February 2020, but the overall vacancy rate remains high, at 5%, compared to 2.01% last year.  More than 40% of new leases come with some form of landlord concessions, the authors said, often one or more months of free rent during the first year after signing.”

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In Brooklyn, the borough saw the ““highest number of new lease signings since tracking began during the financial crisis, at 1,834 for February, a 133% year-over-year increase. Still, the median effective rent dropped 16.3%, more than any other year in almost a decade. Nearly 40% of new signings last month included landlord concessions,” according to reports from Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants.  

Miller Samuel also revealed that studio apartments in Brooklyn are seeing the best discounts in the borough. Average rental prices for studio’s fell nearly 19% when compared to this time last year. Apartments with three or more bedrooms saw the next biggest discount with a 13% decline. There are currently 3,438 listings in Brooklyn, which is also up 1,375 when compared to the amount of listings the borough had this time last year. 

Queens also set a new record for pricing, with inventory up 64% and signings up 36% when compared to last year.

Zillow Facing Antitrust Lawsuit After Accusations Of Favoring Certain Listings 

A real estate startup company is suing Zillow within a federal court over allegations that the website is violating antitrust laws by “deceptively steering customers to home listings from a subset of agents.” 

The suit was filed in a US federal court in Seattle in which the startup Rex alleges that Zillow and its affiliate Trulia are illegally favoring certain listings by brokers who belong to the National Association of Realtors (NAR); the most prominent US real estate trade association. The startup has claimed that non-NAR real estate agents are now located in a “hidden tab” on the website. 

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Rex’s general council Mike Toth was recently interviewed to discuss the suit regarding one of the nation’s most popular real estate listing websites. “The change by Zillow and Trulia forces all non-NAR listings to have permanent low visibility. This is the real estate web returning to this old vision of data segregation rather than data democratization for consumers.”

The suit could potentially shift the way in which certain online real estate platforms operate and allow more opportunities to arise for more buyers and sellers to negotiate the type of agent they want. Zillow and Trulia account for 75% of the online home search market in America, and when they made changes to their sites in the beginning of January, listings began being segregated to hidden areas of the site. 

“Zillow and Trulia started segregating listings, giving preferential treatment to the 1.3 million real estate agents who belong to NAR. Other listings, including those posted by brokers not affiliated with NAR, foreclosures and homes listed for sale by owners without agents, are now relegated to a separate tab. We are asking the court to block Zillow and Trulia from segregating listings,” Rex claimed. 

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NAR has their own real estate listing site, Realtor.com, which is the second-most viewed site for agents throughout the nation. That platform is known for only showing listings by NAR’s agents, and understandably so considering it’s their own website. So the issue now is that the changes Zillow and Trulia made means that three out of the four most popular real estate listing sites are favored for NAR’s agents and their listings exclusively. 

Those listings in particular tend to be more expensive because they require the seller to pay a commission, often 6% of the homes sale price, which is split between the agents of the buyer and seller. Rex has now raised these antitrust concerns with the Justice Department and 35 state attorney generals. 

Viet Shelton is a spokesperson for Zillow who claims the company “made the change in January after it became a participant in the Multiple Listing Services Internet Data Exchange feeds, which are operated by NAR. Zillow’s rules for the IDX feeds require participants to segregate listings. Zillow is committed to giving consumers the most up-to-date housing information on the most amount of listings possible on a single platform. We made changes to the way some listings appear on the site in order to be compliant with MLS rules.” The suit will likely begin unfolding within the next month or so.

Cleaning Solutions That Are Good For The Environment

Climate change is one of the biggest issues in our world currently. While it’s going to take true systemic change from our world leaders to make a genuine impact, there are things we can do in our own homes everyday to help make us feel better about our contribution to creating a greener Earth. 

One of the easiest things one can do to help save money and reduce waste is buying simple cooking ingredients that can be used among a multitude of recipes and meals in bulk. Nancy Birtwhistle recently spoke with the media about how she completely changed her lifestyle when she retired to better help the environment, and buying ingredients in bulk was one of the first steps she took. 

“I buy a lot of bicarbonate of soda, because that’s used a lot, a big bag of citric acid, a bottle of surgical spirit, sodium carbonate (known as washing soda, which can be a skin and eye irritant) and a bag of sodium percarbonate, known as oxygen or green bleach; it’s not as toxic as chlorine bleach, though you still have to be careful with it. And I bought myself a variety pack of essential oils, because I still like a little bit of perfume in fabric conditioner, or my ironing water.”

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She also discussed how she collects rain water to be used in things like her iron or for future watering needs in her garden. Birtwhistle will boil the rain water, fill up her iron and add in a drop or two of essential oil to add some nice scents to her clothing as well. 

Using water, white vinegar, and surgical spirit with essential oils for fragrance, one can easily make their own all-purpose cleaner. “I use it pretty much for anything. It’s non-streaky and quick-drying. It started off as a kitchen cleaner for worktops, the hob, cupboards, cutting through greasy marks on shelves and things like that. Then I moved it into the bathroom and everywhere else. It’s good for mirrors, glass, inside the car. It’s brilliant for tiles.”

For brightening whites and removing yellowing stains from things like pillows or blankets, Birtwhistle reccoments making a lemon juice or citric acid solution, as citrus in general is an amazing natural stain remover. 

Place yellowing fabrics in a lemon juice or citric acid solution of 3tbsp added to 600ml hot water, with salt, and leave to soak. You need a sunny day. Peg them outside – don’t rinse or wring them – and the sun will bleach them.”

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Your vinegar, water, and spirit solution is also perfectly safe to use for cleaning your electronic devices screens. It can help remove fingerprints and harmful bacteria that clings to those surfaces. Birtwhistle recommends diluting the cleaner with more warm water for electronic devices. 

“Marks on glass screens come from a combination of soap scum and limescale. Make a spray of citric acid and water and it comes off in a jiffy. Make sure you rinse it off, because it dries sticky.”

Salt and vinegar solutions are also perfect for removing and preventing mold growth in the home. “Salt and vinegar will kill mold. I keep white vinegar in a spray bottle, so you can get it into awkward places like that. I squirt it, then dip an old toothbrush into ordinary table salt and rub away at it. Once you’ve done that, you could then use a spray of sodium percarbonate if there are any stained bits.”

There’s clearly a multitude of ways one can implement clean and natural solutions into the way they maintain their clean space, and beyond that the environment also benefits from the use of these ingredients.

Mortgage

Biden Administration Looking To Reverse Trump-Era Mortgage Policy

The Trump-era policy removed a lot of protections for those who were dependent on loans for their payments, as well as created the space for riskier loans to be dealt out.

Real Estate Home & Keys

UK Housing Market Showing Major Increases In Housing Prices

House prices in the United Kingdom rose by 8.5% throughout 2020, this marks the largest annual growth rate for the nation since October 2014, according to new official figures released by the government. 

In December 2020, the average price of a house in the UK hit £252,000, which is equivalent to $355,370 in the United States. Government leaders believe this increase is due to the pandemic, but also due to the stamp duty holiday which is projected to finish at the end of March this year. 

The Office for National Statistics released figures this week that showed north-west England as experiencing the highest growth in pricing. Housing rose by 11.2%% last year for that sector, and prices in London rose by just 3.5%. By the end of 2020 the average price of a home in England was around $327,048 in American currency (£269,000).

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“In Wales prices grew 10.7% to an average of £184,000 ($223,706). Scotland had an 8.4% increase to an average of £163,000 ($198,174), while in Northern Ireland a house would typically set buyers back £148,000 ($179937) – up 5.3% on the figure for December 2019,” according to reports.

The fact that so many individuals have been working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic has obviously stunted how many individuals are willing to put their homes on the market during the worst global health and economic crisis in decades. There’s simply not enough supply to meet the demand, even if that demand is exponentially smaller than normal. 

The Office for National Statistics also claimed that the average price of detached properties rose by 10% in 2020 compared to a 5% growth in pricing for flats and maisonettes. 

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“Recent price increases may reflect a range of factors, including pent-up demand, some possible changes in housing preferences since the pandemic, and a response to the changes made to property transaction taxes across the nations.”

In July 2020 the chancellor announced a stamp duty holiday as a means of getting the property market moving. The holiday released property purchases in England and Northern Ireland up to the value of £500,000 ($607,897) from tax payments, according to reports. 

Sarah Coles is a personal finance analyst in the US who claims there’s already hopeful signs that the market will begin to cool down. “Early calculations from Halifax are that house prices fell back 0.3% in January, while the RICS survey showed sales had plummeted, and estate agents expect things to get worse as we go through the spring. A shortage of properties on the market should keep prices from falling, but there’s not going to be a great deal of enthusiasm for more rises.”

Coles went on to explain that “the chancellor could breathe some new life back into the market in the budget if he makes some kind of concession for people mid-sale when the stamp duty rules change. However, there’s no guarantee he’ll do this, and, even if he does, buyers and sellers may be reluctant to get back into the race.”