Are Your Aware?

As part of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, the National Landlords Association (NLA) reminds all landlords of the dangers of carbon monoxide and the importance of maintaining any gas, oil, wood or coal-run appliances.

Faulty appliances can cause carbon monoxide (CO) leaks. CO is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas which is highly poisonous and can kill within hours or cause serious illness through long-term exposure. Symptoms of poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness and loss of consciousness.

Landlords are required, by law, to have gas appliances checked every 12 months and to provide the inspection report to the tenant. Only a Gas Safe registered engineer should carry out gas work. Landlords should also install carbon monoxide detectors in their properties. These detectors will warn tenants of a leak.

2013 – First Prediction

We’re approaching that time of year when gurus and half-wits alike provide us with their property market outlook for 2013.Over to Miles Shipside at Right Move – guru! – who reminds us that property prices have risen by 2 per cent across the UK this year but that, without the London effect, the figure would actually be 0.2 per cent.

‘Though the market remains patchy and national statistics are given a gloss by a buoyant London market, there are a number of positive trends that justify cautious optimism as the market enters its winter recess.’

‘Outside the capital, agents report prices are broadly flat in many parts of the country compared to a year ago. This stability may indicate a sounder springboard for 2013 as the wait goes on for a sustainable recovery in transaction numbers.’ More of the same in 2013 then? We’d say so.

Spain – Is It Time?

According to The Move Channel’s Top of the Props chart for September – it monitors property enquiries from would-be buyers – Spain is still top with Brits. More than one in five enquiries is for Spain.

Simon Peck of Best Overseas Property is in the media commenting on this, ‘The economic climate has actually made Spanish property more affordable than ever. Prices are now as low as 60 per cent off the market peak, banks are allowing 100 per cent finance on some developments and, with the single currency weakening, exchange rates can save investors several thousand pounds on their transaction.’

‘Official figures have already seen overseas property investment this year reach the highest level since four years ago! The bottom line is this: if a property is of good enough quality and in a desirable location, buyers are no longer waiting to make a purchase.’ For serious investors, we have a database of BMV properties in Spain along with a checklist of key points; although, of course, you still need to do your own due diligence and use your own lawyer etc.

Insurance Get Wise!

We’ve just had to replace the wooden flooring in our orangery as part of the glass roof came loose during a storm and we returned home from a short break to find the floor flooded and badly stained. We were, according to the insurance inspector, ‘lucky’ as most claims of this type are rejected by insurers as homeowners have either left a window open by mistake (and don’t have accidental cover) or have failed to maintain and repair as they went along (and have the claim rejected).

‘Maintenance’ is the key. According to AXA, six out of ten householders don’t know that they cannot make a successful claim if any damage is down to poor maintenance.

James Barclay at AXA summarises, ‘Consumers need to understand that an insurance policy is there to protect customers’ homes against the unexpected and not cover for general wear and tear. There are some claims that we simply have to turn away as they are caused by obvious neglect and lack of investment in the property rather than the weather.’ Food for thought.

Heating Checks

The AA has offered some advice on household heating off the back of the report from the AA Home Emergency Response Service that between September 2011 and November 2011, the number of customers with boiler problems more than doubled.

If you haven’t already done so, turn your heating on for a few minutes each week to check it’s working properly.

Make sure that your pipes are properly insulated – this will help protect them from freezing in the winter.

If your pipes do freeze, thaw them out gently using hot water bottles or a hairdryer.

Keeping your heating on a constant, low heat throughout the day could reduce the chance of a breakdown and help maintain a consistent temperature.

Leave your loft hatch open slightly to allow warm air to circulate if you’re away.

Locate your main internal stopcock so you can switch it off in the event of an emergency. It is usually under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe enters the building.

Heating Tips & Tactics

The Heating Helpline at www.heatinghelpline.org.uk is offering some money-saving tips.

If you have less than 10cm of insulation in your loft you’ll be wasting energy. Top the insulation up to 27cm and you could save around £150 a year.

Since the 1930s, most houses have been built with an air cavity between two outer walls. If you get this gap filled with insulating foam you could save well over £150 on your heating bills.

Floorboards lose a lot of heat – insulation seal between the gaps can save you about £25 per year.

Insulate your hot water cylinder. Fitting a jacket at least 75mm thick costs very little and you could save more than £50 each year. Lagging all your hot water pipes could also save you over £25 a year.

Badly fitted doors and windows mean avoidable heat loss. Draught-proofing doors and windows by sealing gaps will help you save energy.

Unused fireplaces are one of the biggest causes of lost heat. If you’re not using your chimney but don’t want to board it up try a chimney balloon – they’re easy to inflate and last for years.

There is a free helpline at 0800 810 8303 or you can go to www.heatinghelpline.org.uk.

The Ukranian Cut And Shut

I’m sure you’ve heard about unscrupulous car dealers who take two damaged cars and weld the front of one to the back of another to create a new vehicle. It’s called a ‘cut and shut’.  But I bet you haven’t heard of anyone deliberately cutting a perfectly good car in half and then welding it back together – simply to avoid tax.  That’s what’s happening in the Ukraine where cars imported into the country are sometimes taken through customs in two parts, where they are then viewed as parts which command a much lower rate of tax.

I’m not suggesting you do this (goodness knows what structural rigidity these cars have!) but rather that you use it as a mental springboard. Is there some way that you can save or make money in your business by dividing up or splitting your product in some way? Perhaps two halves or four quarters are worth more than a whole, or maybe splitting something up would enable you to pay less duty, less tax,  less postage, less delivery charge or something else. Only you will know what this might mean to your business, but it’s worth giving some thought to.

The One Book Book Shop

Did you hear the one about the bookshop with just one book? Well it isn’t a joke. A New York author , Martin Kessler rented a shop to promote his book, Martian Summer. His stated reasoning was this, “Religions ply a single book. Why can’t a bookstore? He calls himself the Monobookist.

So what’s going on here? Well a clue might come from Kessler’s other role in life – he’s creative director of an advertising agency. Of course a bookshop selling one book is a silly, uneconomic idea – unless you factor in the amount of free publicity you get from such a ‘foolish’ idea. It was picked up by media all around the world. In a crowded marketplace, it’s hard to buy that sort of publicity.

What ‘foolish’ thing could you do to draw attention to your venture or enterprise.