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Come on Landlords! - Fortune really does favour the brave! 7th August 2017 

So, as we have discussed many times before, the past few years have not exactly been kind to Landlords. They seem, to the untrained (perhaps slightly biased) eye to have been an ‘easy target’ in terms of raising additional revenue for HMRC. Mortgage interest relief has already been cut and will be cut even further by 2020, finance costs are no longer deductible from income and of course stamp duty is once again payable on rental properties. Certainly no good news there for the average Landlord and this is the reason why many are deciding that property portfolios are no longer a viable way by which to make a living. 
At Strawberry we are encouraging our Landlords not to act without first taking time to consider the options. Yes the golden days of property management may be in the past but so are high returns by any investment route. The fact still remains that there are very few other plans which can offer the longer term financial benefit and pension potential that bricks and mortar can. Demand for rental properties is on the increase and, as a consequence, rents too are very much ‘on the up’ – fewer landlords with fewer properties available mean that an ever-increasing number of tenants will be keen to secure the right property even if they have to pay significantly more to do just that. And let’s not forget the one fact which hasn’t changed at all - the tenant is, in essence, paying off the buy-to-let mortgage. There aren’t many opportunities where you can get someone else to pay off your debt whilst you still get the final benefit of the capital investment! 
The last general point I’ll make here (as the subject clearly needs to be discussed on a far more landlord-specific basis) is that there are also other business-related decisions which can be explored to lessen the impact of the tax changes. One such option might be the formation of a limited company to handle the property management, reducing the overall tax burden and once again allowing the offsetting of the mortgage interest costs. Whilst this can be the right way forward for some it does demand more exploration and, as you might have expected from Strawberry, we can help by putting you in touch with the people who have the answers to the questions you will undoubtedly have….. 
So in summary - yes, some of the ‘financial fun’ has been taken out of the business of being a landlord but we urge you to see past the challenges and remember that the hard facts about property investment are still very relevant and real. Let us help you make it through the harder times to reap the rewards in the future. 

Take care not to be mislead by what you see on line 3rd August 2017 

The Advertising Standards Agency has just upheld a ruling on a certain online estate agency’s claims about exactly how much it can save their clients. Figures of between £3,000 and £5,000 were quoted as being the total amounts saved by the clients featured in their testimonials. It would be fair to assume that these vendors had already been quoted by high street agents (allowing the comparison to be made) however it transpired that it was based on an ‘average’ high street agents fee of 1.8%. 
I’m sure those amongst you who have compared fees of various companies would immediately recognise that very few will look at anything close to 1.8% - some agents are currently quoting nearer to 1% and fixed fee offers may bring the cost down even further. The use of this inflated figure for the purpose of comparison is like comparing prices in a local supermarket to those of Harrods (and not many of us do our weekly shop in Harrods!!). 
The most worrying thing from our perspective is that the online marketplace spends a huge amount on marketing to attract custom and a large part of their persuasion is the fact that there are huge sums of money to be saved. We have spoken before about the fact that this is not indeed comparing ‘like for like’ as the service and support element frequently falls short of what vendors actually need (and tend to receive from reputable, traditional agents such as Strawberry). The fact that the potential savings being achieved are being vastly exaggerated leads to a situation where people are being tempted for all the wrong reasons. 
As a footnote I thought it might also be worth mentioning that the option to defer the costs of selling to the point where the sale is complete is also being investigated as it has transpired that vendors are actually entering into a credit agreement to do so – a fact that is very seldom mentioned at the time of ‘signing up’. Buyer – or is this case Vendor – Beware! 

Strawberry once again staying ahead of the game on behalf of its vendors 21st July 2017 

There’s something quite exciting about auctions – the number of saleroom-related television shows alone is proof of this. At Strawberry we too get excited about auctions – and with good cause. We have very recently partnered with SDL Auctions to offer yet another option for our vendors to achieve success and move on to wherever they ultimately want to be. 
So firstly let me expel the myths. The auction is not the ‘bargain basement’ of the property market. The popularity of this method of sale has been growing and thus too has the number and quality of homes being included. Admittedly, guide prices can sometimes be on the lower side but these figures are mostly considered to be just the starting point for the bidding competition to begin. In our experience the actual value achieved at auction can be very close to the original asking price when the property was on the open market (in some cases actually more). And no longer is the saleroom the place to buy just vacant, run down or unwanted inheritance properties – very often the houses to be seen there have been, and may well still be, on the traditional market. 
At Strawberry we believe in choice for our clients and the introduction of a new route to sale represents this perfectly. Even within the auction option there are a number of different choices to consider – from the straight-forward ‘drop of the hammer’ sale on the day (with a fixed reserve price in place) to a more ‘conditional’ route where a buyer is found but there is still a 28 day time period to sort out the details before exchange of contracts. There is even a zero-commission option where the successful bidder pays the costs! 
We are of course here to talk through the details and put our vendors in contact with the experts to make sure they are 100% happy before they go ahead. As always, we offer a free no-obligation appraisal so there’s no risk in taking the opportunity to explore and have a think about the suitability of the auction, armed with the facts. Whilst auction may not have been the most obvious sales option to see within the Strawberry umbrella of services, we are entirely confident that, if approached in the right way, it can provide yet another way to get a property in front of as many potential buyers as possible – and that can never be a bad thing! 

Thinking about fire safety 27th June 2017 

It has been a very strange and sad few weeks in the news and we, like most people, are still struggling to come to terms with the terrible loss of life in the Grenfell Tower. Such a disaster could not have been anticipated (although there were some concerns voiced about safety in the past which will no doubt now be investigated); the most important thing moving forward is that every possible precaution is taken decisively and swiftly to make sure that such a tragedy can never be allowed to happen again. 
Safety is something for which we ALL must take responsibility. Lack of time or lack of funds can NEVER be a valid excuse for cutting corners or postponing action on areas which are known to be sub-standard or ‘risky’. Thankfully we work with some lovely landlords who understand this and ensure that they follow the strict guidelines on areas such as fire, electrical and gas safety. We are always on hand to assist with such matters and take a very ‘neutral’ standpoint – that is to say that we must make sure that both landlord and tenant take their respective responsibilities seriously and accept no excuses if recommendations are ignored. 
We will carry on doing what we can and watch with interest to see what further actions come from the on-going enquiry. In the meantime we urge all property owners and tenants to review their own living conditions and make sure that they address any ‘safety niggles’ they have had in the past. We may not be talking about anything as major as flammable cladding, perhaps we all simply need to think about fire prevention in general - keeping exits clear, keeping on top of electrical/ gas maintenance & service and discarding any appliances which we know have a tendency to overheat or spark. 
Our thoughts go to those who have been lost, those who have lost others and those who have been left without a home or unsure of their own long term safety. 

Why do vendors choose an online agent? – It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with service… 12th June 2017 

Following on from last week’s blog I’ve just been reading the results from another study comparing online and traditional agents. 
This one carried out by Property Academy and entitled ‘Home Moving Trends’ asked vendors why they chose their respective routes to market. Choice obviously has a lot to do with personal preference but, overwhelmingly, 74% of those who went with the online option did so solely in order to save money. When it came to those who plumped for a traditional agent, 38% said they did this because they valued local knowledge, 35% due to the ability have face-to-face meetings and 17% due to local presence in the shape of a high street office. Surprisingly, 10% said it was because they found dealing with a traditional agent to be more convenient – this goes against the barrage of marketing messages we get from online companies who claim that their service constitutes a huge convenience factor for the vendor. 
So what does this latest survey tell us about selling houses? For me the key message is that the vast majority of those who choose to go down the online route almost admit that they have no expectation for the service to better (or even match) that of the traditional agent. They have simply made a financial decision. My blog last week highlighted the reality of this ‘low cost alternative’ – homes not sold but upfront fees paid and frustration for over 50% of those who thought that they would sell within 12 months (not a lot to ask really). 
I’m going to avoid the obvious sayings about ‘getting nothing for nothing’ but it does make me think about a phrase I heard from someone who’d bought something cheaply – “The thrill of a bargain is easily forgotten when dealing with the long-term disappointment of what you actually got for your money”. 
Even if you have been lured into selling online to save money come and speak to us about getting that money back when we successfully sell your home. 

An independent study into on-line agent frustrations 30th May 2017 

Last week we were sent the results of some research carried out by an estate agent comparison site. The aim of their study was to find out what affect overall the online agents were having on the market. The findings make very interesting reading so I thought I would share the key points with you in my blog this week. 
The study looked at 500 listings across 4 different, well-known online agents (most of whom advertise heavily across TV and radio at the moment). They chose properties which had been listed between January 2016 until February 2017 as it was thought that a 14 month period would give a fair comparison. They supported their research with questionnaires and telephone interviews with the clients of these agents to ensure that they got ‘the whole story’. 
Of these 500 properties, around half still had not sold within this 14 month period. Some agents sold only 48% of their original instructions which means that more than half of the homeowners had paid up front for a service they didn’t actually get (a traditional agent working on a ‘no sale no fee’ basis would not have been paid). More frustratingly, most questioned felt disappointed by factors such as the level of support they had received, the viewings process and the quality of the photographs on the particulars. In frustration, between 10 and 20% of the online customers went on to instruct a traditional agent – obviously ‘writing off’ the upfront fee they had previously paid despite cost saving most probably being the main reason for choosing an online agent in the first place. A considerable number of homeowners studied switched agent after just 2 months which suggests that even the initial service levels fell short of expectations. 
Finally, and perhaps most telling, was the fact that 65% of properties relisted with a traditional agent were re-priced. Could this be due to the fact that the original prices were inaccurate or perhaps even over-inflated to gain the business? Listing without the benefit of local knowledge and having no grasp of the local market conditions this particular statistic comes as no surprise to us. 
the findings of this report matched the kind of things we’ve been hearing from vendors over the last 12 months or so and it was the reason we launched our most recent, particularly generous offer to refund the online fees of any new client when we go on to successfully sell their home. It’s just a pity that some of the homeowners questioned in the research didn’t get to benefit from this – whilst we couldn’t do anything for them we can still show vendors across the whole of the Charnwood area what traditional good service looks like and how quickly it sells house at the right price! 

Strawberry getting it right first time, every time 9th May 2017 

I occasionally share stories of cases where we’ve been successful in achieving a sale when other agents have failed; I always do this with hesitation as it can sound very much like a simple jab at the competition, however when we have genuinely helped a client who has been let down by others I feel it’s important to share at least some of the detail to stop others going through the same. 
One such example involves a lady who made a decision to relocate her family back in March 2016. She invited a few high street agents plus an online agent to carry out valuations, deciding on the online option to save costs and believing that they were going to get her property out there a little faster. After 3 months (and a much slower start than she had anticipated) she had seen very little interest from buyers and decided to go to a more traditional agent. This company did find a buyer for her but at a price lower than she’d really wanted to accept; not an issue in the end as the buyers had to pull out of the sale for personal reasons. Having been encouraged by the fact that there had at least been some interest, she stayed with this agent for over 8 months (including a period of dual marketing between them and the original online agent) but nothing happened and, disappointed with the whole process, the vendor reluctantly decided to take the property off the market over the Christmas period. A new agent then made contact and convinced her to let them try to find a buyer but at a lower sales price. Willing to give this a try she did indeed allow them 4 weeks to see what they could do but after only 2 weeks she already knew that nothing was being done and that was the point at which she came to Strawberry. 
Now for the positive side of the story…..We revalued the property and arranged for the photographs to be carried out whilst we were there with her, within a matter of days we had professional particulars out there in front of new potential buyers and those already on our database, we were speaking to everyone we knew whose wish list had a good match and we were presenting the house in its very best light with great, accurate detail (i.e. not calling the garden room a ‘shed’ as someone else had!) and professional, flattering photographs. After a huge amount of interest generated by our marketing and a high number of viewings made possible by the impressive flexibility of the vendor, we found not one but 3 buyers all keen to proceed with the sale. The result was a sale at a figure substantially above the price marketed by the original agents to a cash buyer with no complications attached. 
Tring not to sound too smug I’d say that one of the best things we got from this was being able to see the vendor finally able to relocate after having put things on hold for almost 12 months. She did try the rest but in the end she came to the best…….. 

Strawberry paying for vendors' mistakes ? – An extremely generous offer!! 29th April 2017 

Increasingly we are speaking to people who have gone down the route of using an online agent in the hope that they might save some money on the sale of their home. Now it’s not that we blame people for believing there is a lower cost way of selling property -after all there is a huge amount of money being spent at the moment on marketing the low cost ‘novel’ alternatives. The problem is that the reality in most cases is nowhere near the promise of receiving the same high level of service for a fraction of the cost. 
Once ‘paid up’ those using online agents very often find that they do not in fact have a dedicated contact and they have to hold for inappropriately long times in call centre queues when they have a question or a concern. When no progress is made (or indeed no viewings at all are being arranged) there is little opportunity to make changes to the marketing of the property; in many cases the options of premium or featured property listings within Rightmove have not even been raised and these enhancements are seldom available after contract has been accepted. Sadly the reality of what a low cost service actually entails becomes very apparent…. 
At Strawberry we have a great track record in providing accurate valuations, having highly pro-active marketing, being supportive and constructive throughout the sales process and getting a quick sale at a good price. We also have a myriad of examples where we have taken over from unsuccessful agents and sold within a matter of weeks either at, or above, the asking price. Without dwelling too much on the detail it’s all about being local, being committed and being very, very good at what we do. 
It’s easy for everyone concerned when we simply ‘take up the slack’ of another high street agent but sadly it has always been a little more complicated for those who want to come to Strawberry but have already paid on-line fees in full. We are therefore making an unbelievably generous offer – for those clients already using an online agent and regretting their decision we will provide a free, no obligation valuation. If we then go on to market and successfully sell the property we will deduct the up-front cost already paid to the online agent from our fees. The seller gets the result they wanted in the first place and we get to show why traditional, personalised service is always better. 

Legionella - Making sure our Landlords are not left exposed to prosecution 4th April 2017 

Late in 2014 new legislation came into effect by which the Landlord became legally responsible for carrying out a legionella risk assessment of the water services within any rented property. Two years on we have reviewed how preventative measures are being followed and have advised our Landlords on the importance of assessment review at change of tenancy. 
At Strawberry we take great care in educating our tenants about their on-going responsibilities when they take possession of a property and the legionella precautions form a very important part of this. Clear instructions are given regarding the maintenance of the correct water temperatures, the cleaning of showers and the running of those outlets which are less regularly used. 
In an ideal world this means that the initial risk assessment would remain entirely valid and would have to be updated only if significant alterations or additions to the plumbing had been made – after all the legislation does not specify the frequency with which assessments need to be re-done. 
In truth however there is no guarantee that the maintenance tasks have been carried out thoroughly or regularly enough and temperature settings are often innocently altered without thought for the legionella implications. Even with our regular property visits, we only have the word of the tenant that our ‘water housekeeping’ instructions are being followed to the letter. This unfortunately means that, at change of tenancy, new tenants are inheriting a system which may fall short of the legal requirement; not only leaving them at risk but also exposing the Landlord to prosecution. 
For this reason we are recommending to all of our Lettings clients that the risk assessment is reviewed at change of tenancy and records updated to show that full legal compliance is being maintained. By doing this we are looking after the interests of both tenant and Landlord and avoiding falling fowl of what is a legal ‘grey area’. 
Yet another example of Strawberry keeping ‘ahead of the game’ and identifying any potential issues which could cause problems in the future – being pro-active rather than reactive as our clients have come to expect! 

Agents being rated by the quality of their website? – that’s good news for Strawberry! 16th March 2017 

I read with interest today that a recent survey suggested only 11% of sellers choose their agent based on a face-to-face meeting. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago discussing the topic of how best to choose an agent and whilst I mentioned individual enthusiasm, accurate valuations and customer support I did not at the time consider that sellers were doing quite so much on-line research on their own before even inviting companies to carry out valuations. 
In fact, according to this study (carried out by an on-line valuation company) 60% of those surveyed admitted to being influenced by the quality of the agents’ websites. Worryingly, over 30% of those who had done this homework had rated some of the agents’ on line presences as being poor or merely average. The survey did not expand upon this point but my personal hope is that those who fell short of even the most basic expectation were not successful in gaining the business! 
At Strawberry we’ve always believed that a website – and the on-going work that is put into it – is a great reflection on the quality of the agent. Harnessing the power of the web and the huge audience it brings does take a whole lot of time and, sometimes, a huge amount of effort to keep everything up to date and relevant. Those who perhaps simply have a web presence but don’t spend much time on it are not only doing their vendors an injustice (by limiting the market to which their home is being presented) but are also illustrating their somewhat arrogant and naive attitude towards today’s property market. As agents we may be competing on a day-to-day basis to gain instructions but as YOUR agent we are competing in an even more competitive market – getting potential buyers to consider YOUR property over the others which are up for sale at the same time. 
We think that success comes from great service and part of that is doing everything we can to get a quick sale at the right price – we’ve got the pedigree, we’ve got the enthusiasm and we’ve got lots and lots of satisfied customers but we’ve also got a great website and some very dedicated people making sure that it remains current, informative, far-reaching, easy to use and totally reflective of our can-do attitude! 

Pets at home with tenants - let's remember the positives  8th March 2017 

Unusually my blog this week is about pets. Yes pets. Not a common topic within the sales and lettings market but a relevant one nevertheless. The fact is that cats and dogs are not generally a welcome accompaniment to would-be tenants and we’re not sure that’s always fair. 
At Strawberry we understand why people might not choose to have pets themselves and for that reason they might choose not to have tenants with pets. Yes there are potentially issues with dog or cat hair on carpets and the occasional skirting board may have had a chew from a bored puppy or mischievous kitten, but in general pet owners are responsible members of society and have absolutely intention of allowing their best friends to damage your property any more than they are likely to damage it themselves. 
Looking at it from another angle, pet ownership does tend to go hand-in-hand with some other traits which are usually considered to be more ‘sought after’ by landlords. Those with either cats or dogs tend to be more settled - usually families -who will most probably be looking for a longer term let. Being the master of a faithful hound or keeper of a feline friend also brings with it a level of responsibility and aren’t all landlords looking for tenants who are going to act responsibly? 
Please don’t think by writing this particular blog I have intentions of being the number one advocate of feline companionship or indeed the champion of dog owners nation-wide; my point is simply that as a landlord you may be turning down perfectly good tenants by not seeing past the potential for pet hair and drool. In my own experience much more damage is done by a badly balanced glass of red wine……..Click on this text to edit it. 

... And here’s exactly what a great agent looks like 23rd February 2017 

Last week my blog was all about choosing an agent and I mentioned that at Strawberry we welcome being ‘tested’ by prospective customers before they instruct us to sell or let their property. Another great way to see what service you are likely to receive is to speak to existing and past customers or ask about recent successes; that way you get a true reflection of the service rather than ‘hype’ projected by someone keen to get your business. 
Since the proof is very much in the pudding I thought this might be a good time to share just a few of the good news stories we’ve had over the last week. What makes it even more amazing is that this is essentially just ‘business as normal’ for Strawberry….. 
So, firstly we had a new instruction which we marketed in our usual speedy fashion – within 24 hours we’d not only had four viewings but also got four offers – two of the offers exceeded the asking price and we therefore achieved a sale with a few back-ups in place just in case! 
On another instruction we had been up against an online agency which the client was considering. Now, at Strawberry we try to be as competitive as possible but we know that our high service levels cost more than the ‘remote’ offerings of an on-line company. We discussed the benefits of personalised service, face-to-face meetings and consistency. The client thankfully agreed and we were able to get the Strawberry marketing machine in action immediately – we photographed the property at 10am, had the particulars out there by 2pm and got our first viewing at 4pm. At this point in time the on-line agent wouldn’t even have had the listing completed. 
Just atypical week of helpfulness and success for Strawberry and their very happy clients. 

How do you choose your agent? Look beyond the valuation, the costs and the ego…. 13th February 2017 

How to choose your sales agent? It’s an age-old dilemma. Now I’m not bold enough to say that I’ll be able to solve the mystery of who is best in the space of a short blog post and I certainly don’t want to simply say ‘Strawberry’ (even although I believe we are!). 
There are 3 main ways that clients tend to choose their agent. The first is on the valuation but, as we have said many times on this page, there is little to be gained by the vendor by simply going for the highest valuation. If it is over-inflated the price will have to come down at some point in the process and it seldom ends well. An agent looking to gain your business may want to flatter you by putting a high price on your property; there may even be an element of ego involved – “I’m so great I’ll easily be able to get you this price!” 
So how about simply comparing fees? It is seldom a case of comparing apples with apples – fee structures are varied and thought must be given to fixed versus commission-based as incentivised selling may be most advantageous to the vendor. Can we really say that an agent will feel as enthusiastic about a property which is going to net a humble, discounted sales fee as they would about one where a fair fee will be involved (and enhanced if the original price is exceeded)? 
Finally let’s consider the agent who calls round to carry out the valuation. As a buyer perhaps you are impressed by their enthusiasm, their friendliness and how complimentary they are about your decor. Yes, I myself would expect to feel comfortable with the person who comes to provide a valuation, but isn’t it obvious that their job requires the element of friendliness, eagerness and compatibility and therefore can you honestly take this as a sign that this is the best agent for you? 
OK so I’ve given you three things which may not the best indicators of how good an agent’s will be. Here now is what I would suggest is a failsafe method to get the right impression – pop into the Sales Office. Even better, why not think about visiting it ‘undercover’! Approach things from the point of view of a buyer - how were you greeted, were you asked the right questions, were you shown property details which matched your request…? In short, would you be confident about these people having your property to sell? The team in the office will have most power in selling your home – getting it in front of your potential market, matching with buyers and progressing the sale smoothly form offer to completion. 
Pop in to see us at Strawberry Cottage. No need to make an appointment – surprise us! 

Money can’t buy happiness but our management packages come very close 3rd February 2017 

As the temperature outside falls below zero many thoughts will go to the protection of water pipes and the avoidance of leaks and bursts, especially in rental properties. No one wants to be called by a tenant in the middle of the night to be told of water cascading down walls or rising through the floorboards….. 
The life of a Landlord is not always an easy one and the responsibility taken on with multiple property ownership is often underestimated. At Strawberry we like to make life as straight-forward as possible for all of our clients – vendors, buyers, tenants and landlords alike. Whilst we’re not going to leap into action and offer to fix the frozen pipe at midnight, our landlords can sleep a little easier knowing that their Strawberry managed properties can be covered by a team of trusted contractors who make it their business to respond when a need arises. 
Tenants too feel comforted by the knowledge that everything is very much ‘in hand’ before they are actually faced with an emergency. They will already know who their points of contact are via the contact list we issue when they move in and there’s always further, easily-accessed help within the tenants section of the website The thought of contacting a nominated maintenance person rather than surprising their landlord with a call of woe is a much more pleasant prospect – indeed the presence of such arrangement may have swayed them to choose their property in the first place. 
If you are a landlord who likes to sleep easy or a tenant who likes to be prepared then Strawberry managed properties may just offer the closet thing to stress-free living you can possibly get. 

In this case the computer doesn't say 'No!' 20th January 2017 

I have mentioned within previous blogs that Strawberry can help clients consider their mortgage options. We do this by recommending our very knowledgeable mortgage advisors, Vickers Young. There is, of course, never any obligation to move forward with any products or deals which the advisor finds – from our point of view we just want to know that you are at least informed about anything out there which makes good financial sense for your particular circumstances or indeed that you are aware of what exactly will be expected by any particular lender. 
Our contact at Vickers Young shares this point of view and that’s why there’ll never be any hard sell on their part. Their commitment to us - and the best interests of our clients - is perfectly illustrated by a message we received from them today to let us know about the fact that they can now include HSBC products within their search. As a popular lender (and bank of choice of many Strawberry clients) this will be a popular move and the great knowledge which Vickers Young have about the lending criteria and finer detail will most definitely reduce the time (and potential stress) spent on this ‘less glamorous’ aspect of buying a property! 

Let's get this year started  11th January 2017 

Let’s get this year started off in earnest. We’re keen to ramp things up in our quest to help as many clients as possible with their property needs, whatever they may be. We had a great 2016 across both Sales and Lettings and it is now vitally important that we boost and maintain our stock of properties to satisfy the buyers and tenants who are already coming to us to find their new home. So, 
EMPTY PROPERTIES? – let us have them and let us get them working for you 
INVESTMENT PLANNING? – let us find you a financially viable buy-to-let investment property 
DOWNSIZING? – let us find the perfect smaller home for you and find an appreciative buyer to love your old one 
FEELING SQUEEZED IN? – talk to us about what kind of space your lifestyle needs and at the same time let us find a buyer with a lifestyle to fit your existing property 
Whatever your situation we will help you move forward with the least amount of stress, whilst keeping costs down. We offer a free, no-obligation valuation and of course our advice also comes without a charge; we’ll let you know what quick steps you could take to make your home irresistible before the viewings start. No need to delay your plan - call today and take the first step forward, whatever your situation, whatever your plan. 

What have we seen in 2016? 20th December 2016 

Where to start……. Well, it’s been a turbulent year for the property market to say the least. In property sales things have been getting very competitive and we’ve seen some crazy valuations and unsustainable pricing plans being used to try to tempt vendors to sign up. For a while there also seemed to be a glut of on-line sales companies vying for local business – a strange concept when for many of these the word ‘local’ simply meant based in the UK somewhere! ‘Too good to be true’ costs in many cases turned out to be just that and many people were left disappointed when crucial support was just not available when it was needed most. 
At Strawberry we’ve stuck to our guns and offered our clients the same great level of service as always and made sure that our valuations remain accurate, realistic and achievable – a talent which has allowed us to maintain our top Rightmove rankings (selling at the marketed price rather than dropping down throughout the sales process). Our professionalism, local knowledge and competitive costs have won us business even when those around us were trying all sorts of gimmicks to do the same and our ever-growing list of testimonials from satisfied clients shows that we certainly seem to have been getting it right!! 
Lettings has been the area of the market where we’ve witnessed most change; sadly, not very much in the way of change for the good. Thanks to some government policies life as a Landlord has become more problematic. New changes in stamp duty charges, added responsibilities and reduced tax relief have made the role of a landlord a little more difficult and a lot less profitable. As a result we have seen a decline in the number of new buy-to-lets and even heard from some long-term landlords selling up and getting out of the business altogether - a trend which we unfortunately expect to see continue into 2017. Despite these setbacks we still do see a future in property management and we intend to support our landlords as much as we possibly can to protect income, reduce stress and allow them, in turn, to continue to supply their invaluable service to those needing somewhere safe and suitable to live. 
Life isn’t looking much better for tenants either as the reduction in rental stock has increased competition within the market and encouraged those who find a property they like to stay put for longer. Great when you’ve got in there nice and early, but problematic when you’re still looking and have fewer choices to consider. Again at Strawberry we are striving to maintain our strong support for tenants and offer them a variety of properties with good landlords who have their best interest at heart. This in itself may become more difficult in the New Year ahead if the proposed government changes come to fruition and application and referencing fees can no longer be charged to tenants. We understand that there may have been some ‘dodgy practices’ in some parts of the country which meant that prospective tenants were being exploited, however there are genuine costs to be covered in the application process and the fear is that these may simply have to be realised elsewhere. In the 25 years we have been providing a service to tenants we have never experienced any kind of negative reaction to the fact that an application fee is payable as part of the process. We can think of very few circumstances (if any) where a service is offered free of charge despite there being significant time and costs involved in carrying it out. We will watch developments with interest and continue to work with both landlords and tenants to keep problem-free tenancies which are fair to all parties concerned. 
As a team we have a vast amount of experience and time served within the industry and we have seen many ‘challenges’ come and go – Strawberry remains as positive as ever and positively committed to put quality service at the top of the agenda. 
We wish all of our customers, old and new, a lovely Christmas and a prosperous New Year.. 

Strawberry in the community - Claire Bateman 14th December 2017 

Hello blog readers. My name is Claire and it's my turn today to continue on the theme of how Strawberry genuinely can be described as part of the community. 
I really do believe that the wish to ‘give back’ to the community is infectious at Strawberry. For me personally I think it’s so much easier to keep going through the really busy times when you know that everyone around you is doing their bit too. The majority of my spare time is spent at the local dance school where, as well as teaching the children various styles of dance, I am very much involved in the raising of funds to keep the facility running - for the current pupils and future generations of Loughborough children too. 
Founded in 1978 by its Principle, this private dance school is situated in the heart of the town and follows the syllabus of the American Academy of Dance for examinations and medal tests. Children get the opportunity to dance in the West End at Her Majesty's theatre, The Royal Albert Hall, Buxton Opera House and Blackpool Winter Gardens (which houses the largest stage in Europe). Local performances are always well received, such as those supporting Rainbows Hospice, the schools bi-annual show and even MacDonald’s Flash Mob! 
There’s always the need for funds and we have held many events including market stalls, cake sales, bags for schools, Halloween parties, indoor car boot sales, grocery bag packing and, of course, our Christmas Party. For the last three years we have taken part in the Tap-a-thon arranged by The Performers Project in aid of Children in Need. This year 7484 tappers took part which is amazing but we just fell short of the 7596 target to beat the record – so, so close! (Next year we can do it!) Disappointment soon disappeared however as we did help raise in excess of £38,000.00 for this great cause. 

Strawberry at the heart of the community 10th December 2016 

As the owner of Strawberry you could say that I have a lot invested in the local community. We are very much a Barrow-based business and will continue to be so, even although our sales and letting services extend far beyond the village boundary. It never fails to amaze me how kind and generous the people of Barrow are and how much they themselves give back to their community. One person who instantly comes to mind is David Dipple who has not only been heavily involved with our primary school, Hall Orchard, but has also been key to the success of the Kindu Trust in Ethiopia and has set up a school, helped with housing and been a real hero to many out there. 
My daughter Hannah has just taken a gap year before going to University and this gave her the opportunity to go and help David with his work in Ethiopia at the school. Her time there was absolutely amazing and she was overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who have so little to give – she remembers a particular time when one lady took 3 hours to make them coffee, grinding the fresh beans and making sure it was just right for them. 
Whilst there, Hannah met 12 year old twin girls living with their mum and elder sister. The family had been through some particularly difficult times and the twins had lost their sponsor for schooling. Keen to help, and inspired by the generosity she had witnessed, Hannah decided that she did not want the girls to miss out on schooling and stepped in. Strawberry and Hannah herself now sponsor the girls’ education. In addition to making sure that schooling continues we also provide a small monthly contribution to the family to help with housing, clothing etc. – all the everyday things that we tend to take for granted. 
The hope is that Hannah and myself will be able to go back to Ethiopia to help David and of course visit the girls again. 

Strawberry at the heart of the community 5th December 2016 

Hello Blog readers. My name is Kim Knight and I look after valuations, marketing, viewings, and feedback - amongst other things! We often speak about how Strawberry is an active part of the local community and I thought it might be worthwhile to just give a few examples of what this really means as it's an easy thing to say.... 
I’ve always had a real interest in what’s been going on in Barrow but my involvement in the community has increased significantly since my own children have started school. As an active member of the PTFA I assist with fundraising and ensure that the school’s activities are well supported. Like Strawberry, the school likes to promote community spirit; a great example of this is the Christmas window competition. Each year I liaise with the village playgroups, pre-schools and after school clubs to ensure that the younger children within the community have a great place to showcase their artistic work. As well as being able to let the people of Barrow see what the children have created, the window raises the general awareness of the various children’s groups we are lucky enough to have in the village. 
Another one of my little tasks comes around with the Barrow Street fayre when I take charge of Strawberries contribution, opening Strawberry Cottage to serve hot drinks and sell delicious cakes. The proceeds of this are given to another charity close to our hearts – Rainbows hospice. 
I am by no means the only member of the Strawberry team to 'give a little back' but I'll leave it up to my colleagues to tell you a little more about what they do themselves. In the meantime if there's anything you'd like to know about the PTFA or any of the children's facilities we have in the village please just pop in for a chat. 

Keeping promises and keeping clients in the loop 22nd November 2016 

It’s a big decision you are making when you choose an agent to sell your home. It’s also a very difficult one as it seems like every agent you speak to whilst making your choice is offering to be the very best, sell quickly and get a great price. 
I wrote last week about being fooled by high valuations so I won’t get into that again here but how do you know that everything else you’re being promised before you sign on the dotted line is actually going to happen? Sadly you can never be sure, and we have plenty of stories of clients who have come to us after they have been let down by the ‘empty promises’ of other agents. 
We don’t want to just blend in with all those other companies, it’s all very well to say what you will do but at Strawberry we place greater emphasis on what we are actually doing. That means that we will speak with you lots throughout the sales process rather than just talk at you a lot to gain your instruction in the first place. 
Every one of our vendors gets a weekly update call and an additional call after each viewing to give valuable feedback from potential buyers. On top of this we also schedule in a review meeting every 4 weeks where we will have an opportunity to share information and ideas and ensure that we are jointly doing everything we can to achieve that all-important sale. 
We believe that it is our job to keep you informed; it is not your job to have to chase us for information. We don’t make promises – we keep them.. 

Don't be fooled by high valuations 14th November 2016 

There’s a trend we’ve started to notice within the sales market recently. Some agents – as always I will be naming no names – are offering very low sales fees to gain instructions. It could be argued that this is simply a tactic which competitors see fit to employ to win business in what is a very competitive market, however at Strawberry we believe in offering good value for money all year round and not dropping fees to a vastly reduced rate just during the quieter months. When buyers are a little thin on the ground there is probably more work to be done to gain that all-important sale and we therefore want to be able to devote the necessary time and effort to doing just that. 
More worryingly, the associated trend we’ve seen is where agents significantly over-value a property, again most probably to gain instruction. This is problematic as the market will ultimately decide on the price for which any home will sell and having a high valuation (dare we say an over-inflated valuation) does not change that fact. More often than not the price is eventually reduced as there is either no or little interest or only low figures are being offered (legally the sales price must remain at its initial level for at least 28 days so there is a month at last where not very much in the way progress will be made). Dropping the price at any time is not ideal as buyers get nervous of the reasons why or get wise to the fact that further negotiation will be possible. Worse still we find that in these days of ‘nervous lending’ the lenders valuation tends to be on the more conservative side and, regardless of the buyers intention to pay the asking price, the whole sales process grinds to a halt as the mortgage cannot proceed. Suffice to say that none of these situations favour the vendor and all of a sudden the high valuation supplied by the agent is a problem rather than the good thing it might first have appeared. 
At Strawberry we do our homework to make sure our valuation is accurate, fair to the vendor and realistic. We have a great reputation in the area (as our Rightmove stats have shown) for achieving a smooth sale without the need to drop the price and that’s something we don’t want to change. We won’t ‘buy’ business just to make it look like we are everyone’s agent of choice; it’s our hard work and hard-earned knowledge that make us stand out from those who simply ‘play the numbers game’. 

Too close to Christmas to get on the market? Absolutely not!! 18th November 2016 

Often we hear customers say that they would love to get their home on the market before Christmas but that they think it’s just not the right time to do it. Popular myths include ‘it’s a bad time to sell as nobody looks at this time of year’, ‘it will get in the way of putting up the decorations’ and ‘houses don’t start to sell again until Spring’. I say myths because, in our many years of experience, the market doesn’t just close down for the months of November, December and January and also we tend to credit buyers with the ability to look beyond the tinsel and trees when they are viewing a property in the midst of the festive season! 
Those who find themselves looking for a new home when others are having some well-earned family time tend to be doing so because they really need to – on the run up to Christmas itself there aren’t too many ‘time-wasting’ viewers who simply want to kill a few hours over a weekend….. 
It may also come as a surprise to know that Rightmove see an unbelievably large hike in views on Boxing Day as those who’ve been indoors with the family for a week or two suddenly realise that they could do with a bit more space and those who delayed their move to enjoy family celebrations are spurred into action. If your property isn’t already on there then it’s not going to be amongst those which this huge swathe of potential buyers consider. Missing this seasonal opportunity really would be a shame if you have already made up your mind to have a move early in the New Year. 
As for your Christmas decorations – the trick is to get your photographs taken before you feel the need to start decking the halls and tinselling the trees. You’ll get the shots you want and be able to show your home exactly as it normally is; so even if potential buyers want to view when you’re in full festive swing they know what shape the property will return to when the celebrations have ended. As we mentioned earlier, those who view potential new homes at this time of year generally do so because they NEED to move and they will therefore be very happy to look beyond the sparkles! 
If you’re deliberating about a move between now and January then give Strawberry a call and we will advise you on the best way to benefit from the Boxing Day surge. We can book in your valuation and photographs in plenty of time to ensure that you still have a relaxing Christmas – after all, what’s could be more relaxing than knowing that you’re already tackling your New Year’s resolutions!! 

What’s in a picture? A snapshot of chaos perhaps…. 1st November 2016 

So the attached photo may have made at least some of you smile (it raised a giggle or two here at the office). But even after seeing the funny side your next thought might have been ‘well at least the room isn’t messy’ or ‘the décor is actually Ok’. Both of those statements might be true however at Strawberry our job as your agent is to get as many people as possible interested in viewing and ultimately buying your property. Even if, for whatever reason, you’d seen the need to have a bed in your kitchen we’d just have to point out some of the questions which might form in the mind of potential buyers and make them decide not to even bother coming to have a look. Amongst these thoughts are – general lack of bedrooms elsewhere, poorly appointed/ designated rooms throughout the property or even just a suspicion of a chaotic lifestyle which may result in many other ‘peculiarities’ within the house which might not be so immediately obvious. The common theme of these ponderings is suspicion and no-one wants to enter into what is potentially the biggest purchase of their lives with any degree of nervousness about what they might find after the paperwork is done and dusted! 
You won’t be surprised to hear that at Strawberry we take property photographs very seriously. We have the professional equipment, we have staff who understand exactly what they are doing (and don’t just take random shots as they whizz through the house) and we have the knowledge and experience to know exactly what to show and how to present it. There is a very delicate balance to be achieved between showing off a home’s best features without bending the truth regarding room proportions. But even more than this we won’t just work with what’s there on the day – if we feel that a certain item of furniture is not best placed (e.g. a bed in the kitchen!) we’ll work with the vendor to make sure we get the best possible end result - marketing material to boost viewings to their maximum and achieve a quick sale at a good price. We care about our image and therefore we really do care about your images…… 

Property Management – it’s a Win/ Win situation for Landlords and Tenants 25th October 2016 

It would come as no surprise to Strawberry clients and regular blog readers that we strongly recommend that our landlords have a management package in place however we have tended to make reference to how it helps when things go wrong (something we don’t really want to think about at the beginning of a tenancy). For a change I thought it might be worth looking at the benefits from both sides, Landlords and Tenants to understand why we recommend it so whole-heartedly:- 
Why Managed Properties are better for Tenants 
• Tenants are always aware of the possibility of encountering ‘rogue landlords’, renting a property through a registered agent offers them peace of mind 
• There tends to be just one point of contact from viewing to check-out and a trust develops regarding the services promised and those actually received, reducing stress and frustration 
• Tenants understand that a Landlord will always have an eye on their financial investment whereas an agent will act independently of this 
• If something breaks or is faulty the tenant knows it will be dealt with fairly and quickly even when the Landlord is out of the country 
Why Managed Properties are better for Landlords 
• Managed rentals generally attract better tenants for the above-mentioned reasons 
• Tenants with something to hide usually avoid agents because of the checks they carry out 
• The agent will, from experience, know exactly how to market your property to attract the right kind of tenant in the first place 
• The managing agent will want to avoid problematic tenants as they do not want to associate their business with them 
• The important tasks such as vetting, maintenance, rent collection and correspondence are all handled professionally and with no ambiguity 
And for both parties – the emotion and ‘personal nature’ surrounding difficult issues (such as those relating to deposit return and arrears) can be avoided and dealt with independently in an appropriate and legally complaint manner. 

Why are tenants costing Landlords £5billion per annum? Well those Landlords obviously weren’t using Strawberry as their agent! 16th October 2016 

A recent article I read in The Negotiator publication revealed that UK Landlord’s lose a staggering £5billion per annum through damage to property and unpaid rent. ‘Wow that’s quite a figure’ I thought but actually when split down across the very large (and growing) number of landlords across the nation it’s not quite as bad as it first seems. 
Staying on the positive side of things, the tips the author gives to avoid problems most definitely fall into one common category – ‘Strawberry do that’. I won’t repeat the entire detail of the piece but amongst the advice to landlords are the following little nuggets:- 
1. Carrying out good background checks on prospective tenants 
2. Checking all references and making full credit checks 
3. Making regular inspections of the property 
4. Ensuring that there is a comprehensive inventory, check-in and check-out 
Tick, tick, tick, tick – all everyday practices for us at Strawberry – always have been, always will be; in fact we actually do even more than this to protect our Landlords. But let’s not get too big-headed about it - the important thing is that our management service packages give landlords the kind of support they need to protect their investment and keep risks to a minimum. And the cost of this protection gets nowhere close to the kind of figures associated with the costs incurred through damaged property and lost rental.. 

5 homes sold in just 4 days? – all part of the Strawberry service! 3rd October 2016 

We are very busy people here at Strawberry. That’s not a complaint; we love being busy as we know that we are helping our customers get on the move and get on with their own busy lives. Last week however we saw our usual workload increase immensely as we had an amazing 5 property sales in just 4 days! 
The more cynical amongst you may think that it’s no big deal if the properties are at the lower end of the market and are sold much lower than the asking price. Well, in this particular case we saw the whole range of the market represented within those sales – the lowest being at £147, 000 and the highest being £370,000 - and all sold at the asking price or just very slightly below. 
The secret behind this success is the fact that we work hard every day on behalf of our clients, from instruction to completion (not just in the initial stages to gain the business). We don’t cut corners and we know our stuff so as soon as we put our professional marketing in action each property is presented at its very best to genuine buyers (and lots of them). 
Thanks to a general increase in confidence and low interest rates the market is certainly picking up at pace, but it is more important than ever to choose your agent carefully to allow you to keep in control and get the very best price (and the best experience) , keeping those stress levels nice and low. 
If you have a property to sell in Barrow, Sileby, Quorn or Mountsorrel we have buyers who want to get moving quickly. We’d very much like to help them move quickly and help you in the process so please come and speak to us about getting your property out there and sold super-fast style. 

Buy-to-let vs money in the bank? No competition!! 21st September 2016 

Strawberry are well known for being Buy to Let experts. We frequently help both new and experienced landlords build and grow their portfolios and make sure that any new additions to their rental stock will yield the kind of returns they want. By keeping fully up to date with what’s happening within the lettings market we know the exact area and property type to recommend and we will carry out extensive property searches to put together a selection which meet those criteria. Even when the purchase is agreed we will continue to advise on how to get the property ‘rental ready’, swiftly and competitively, utilising the services of trusted contractors where necessary. 
Despite this easy route to get into the lettings market some potential landlords may have been put off recently by changes to stamp duty and imminent changes to tax relief which they feel may just eat into the kind of margins which have been achievable in the past. It is true to say that returns may have fallen when compared to the boom periods of recent years however the experts still quote property as being one of the best investments can be made. 
Here are just some of the points which have been raised by ‘those in the know’:- 
1. Even with a gross rental yield of just 4% (a conservative estimate) this compares very favourably to the average savings account which generates closer to 0.5% gross p.a. 
2. The general belief is that interest rates for savers will be cut further in November of this year – possibly eve from 0.25% down to something like just 0.1% - so a time of ‘no interest at all’ is possible. 
3. Mortgage costs in general are still falling and many lenders are shaving their best rates to attract buy to let investors (new figures from Mortgage Brain suggest that the cost of buy-to-let mortgages have fallen by 8% over the last six months alone). 
4. Rents within the private rental sector are rising and seem set to continue to do so. In the three months to August 2016 alone the increase has been in the region of 3% and competition within the sector, it is believed, will only increase year on year. 
So in summary, the lettings market may not provide the dream yields which may have been enjoyed in the past but with the right approach and the important homework being done, the return still far out performs anything which can be achieved by simply having the money in the bank. 
If the slow (or non-existent ) growth of your savings leaves you feeling frustrated then buy-to-let with support from Strawberry could be a very profitable option.. 

The pitfalls of self management 13th September 2016 

There was a story in the news last week about a landlord who was fined £22,000 for neglecting his property and leaving it in an ‘uninhabitable state’ for his tenants. Now this is an extreme case and we are not just talking about a few missed maintenance jobs over a short space of time. It does however highlight that landlords can get into a position where the management of their property becomes just too much; it may be willful neglect but generally it’s more a case of ‘too much to do in too little time’ or even, especially in the case of new landlords, genuine lack of experience. 
It’s not just a matter of getting some tenants in and waiting for the money to start flowing. There will be tasks to handle, queries to answer and care to be taken to ensure that the tenancy runs smoothly and any future (potentially costly) problems can be avoided. Time is often a luxury for many landlords and regardless of whether you own 1 or 50 properties the management of them is seldom the only demand on the hours available. 
Understanding this fully, Strawberry offer a range of management services to suit every level of need from rental collection only to the ultimate ‘peace of mind package’ to protect time, investment and probably also sanity for busy landlords. Fines for neglecting properties may be rare but unforeseen costs are not. Taking up a management contract with Strawberry (costing only an average of around £50 per month) makes great financial sense. If you would like to speak to us about it in more detail please just give us a call or pop into the office. 

Get a move on!!! We need your property to sell or let 2nd Sept 2016 

I’m hoping by now that you have an idea about how seriously we take customer service and how we strive to be the very best in our marketplace, taking on board the frustrations that people have generally with estate agents and making sure that we don’t put our clients through that kind of stress. Figures and stats I’ve shared recently from Rightmove back up our claims to be the best – we’re coming out head and shoulders above other agents in our area time and time again. All good for us BUT we cannot show off our great marketing skills and our talent for selling and letting unless we get the properties that allow us to do just that. We have customers coming to us on a daily basis; would-be buyers and tenants desperate to find a new property and get settled in before the end of the year. We know we can’t magic new properties out of thin air but we know that there are many people out there who intend or sell or let but are hanging on for a variety of reasons. 
Despite recent uncertainty in the financial markets the property market is still active. We have some great sales offers (some of the best we’ve ever had) and we have management packages to make landlords lives so much easier. The free and no-obligation visit we make to value your property will get you started on the journey on just the right footing with a realistic and achievable valuation and a clear plan to make the process move as smoothly as possible. Even if you feel that your home isn’t quite up to the standard you’d want it to be pre-sale we can help. As well as advising you on the key maintenance and decorating tasks to complete we can offer you useful and trusted contacts to help you get them finished off and get on the market. We know what buyers and tenants want and what features attract a premium and we’ll make sure that you get the advice and support you need to achieve a quick sale or let at the right price. 
Get a move on – let Strawberry help make your move happen now and in turn we can help other clients find exactly what they want too.. 

Stop the Press!! We're number 1 in LE12 23rd August 2016 

Stop the Press!!! It’s not often I take back something I’ve said before but in this case I’m quite prepared to do so…… 
A few weeks ago I reported our performance on Rightmove and the fact that we had come 2nd out of 21 agents on in the LE12 area for ‘number of new listings’ and ‘time on Rightmove’. We were more than just a little bit pleased with both of these rankings as it proved that we were winning new instructions over the vast majority of agents in the area (including the ‘big boys’) and that we were selling and letting much faster. 
So you can only imagine how delighted I was to find that WE ARE NOW NUMBER 1 in both of these categories. That’s right, there’s no other agent on Rightmove outperforming our service against these benchmarks in the whole of the LE12 area. What’s more we have maintained our NUMBER ONE POSITION for click-through rate – a great indicator that the way we present our clients’ properties on the portal is grabbing attention and getting more potentially sale-clinching views! 
We’re celebrating, our clients are celebrating and the others can just look on in awe…. 
You definitely know you are picking the best when you come to Strawberry. 

A cautionary tale - don't be pressurised 23rd August 2016  

I’ll be the first to admit that current market conditions are very competitive and every agent (including Strawberry) wants to gain as many new instructions as possible. Our way to secure new clients is to be fair, consistent and extremely pro-active – existing customers like this and we therefore gain a significant amount of new business via referrals and good old-fashioned word of mouth. 
Frequently we hear stories about how people felt ‘pressurised’ by their previous agent and didn’t feel that they were being given the level of choice or service they expected. Very recently however we heard a story from a new client which really did make our blood boil. On viewing a property they wanted to buy they were informed by the sales agent that they would have to put their own property up for sale with them too before proceeding with an offer. (This can be suggested as a course of action to keep close control over the chain but is by no means a condition of having an offer forwarded to the vendor). Feeling like they were being put ‘on the spot’ but very much wanting to buy the property they had viewed, the client agreed. Lo and behold, later that day they were told that the property had been sold to someone else but had by then signed the paperwork to tie them to the agent for their own sale (at a considerable, non-negotiable fixed fee). As if this wasn’t bad enough it also turned out that their ‘contract’ was for 12 weeks and not just 4 weeks as they’d originally believed. We have found them a new property which they are desperate to own but frustratingly the sale will ultimately depend on them selling their existing property. We’d obviously love to help with this too but we cannot do so until their tie in period ends and they are free to make their own choice of agent. 
I’m very aware that this blog may come across as a bit of a rant (I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to vent my own anger at frustration at the situation) but I truly hope that anyone reading it is equally disgusted by the conduct of this unnamed agent and never falls foul of such unprofessional and unhelpful behaviour. 

Strawberry's blooming in LE12 10th August 2016 

Regular readers of my Blog will know how much I love stats. In my defence the stats do also show the love that there is out there for Strawberry so I think that’s fair enough! 
The most recent good news we’ve had from Rightmove shows that in the LE12 area we are not only outperforming a number of much larger agents but that we continue to be first choice for many discerning clients. Over the last month we ranked number 2 out of a total of 21 agents in the area in terms of the number of new listings – in other words we were the agent of choice over 19 other agents, many of whom are much bigger than us and will claim to have more to offer landlords and vendors. 
Again, Strawberry showed skill and professionalism at selling and letting properties sitting at a very satisfying second place in the ‘Time on Rightmove’ category. In other words the average time we take to sell and let is significantly better than 19 of the 21 agents in this postal area. 
Finally - and just as re-assuring for existing clients as for those not yet on the market - we came TOP in Click-Through Rates. Not only are we getting a very significant share of new instructions but we are presenting them (with our very detailed particulars and professionally taken photographs) in such an appealing way that prospective buyers and tenants are clicking through to get more detail. In fact, across the LE12 area Strawberry properties are the most looked at on the Rightmove site so it’s hardly surprising that we are so successful on behalf of our clients. 
Time and time again we’re proving that our hard work pays off -great for us and great for our clients. 

Make the Rightmove to Strawberry - accurate valuations and quick sales 15th July 2016 

I am very aware of the fact that I do, on a regular basis, talk about the high level of service clients have come to expect from Strawberry and why that makes us different from the larger chains out there. Our customers see first-hand just how hard we work upon their behalf but it’s not always easy to convince others of this, especially if they have been left disappointed by other agents and the general disinterest they can sometimes show. 
Using Rightmove to its very best advantage is a very important aspect of the service we provide to our vendors and we put in many hours behind the scenes to make sure we keep our listings ‘top of the pile’, getting the right amount of attention and maximising exposure to a far-reaching audience. 
As well as utilising the benefits we also use the feedback we get from Rightmove to see what we’re doing well and identify any areas where we could perhaps do better. The most recent reports we received showed that we are not only getting it right but that we are out-performing the majority of our competitors by quite a margin! It would take many lines of text and take up too much of your precious time to go through every statistic in the report in detail s let me highlight just a few:- 
Property Reductions 
Strawberry came out top of the rankings with only 3 reductions in the period Feb – June 2016 compared with figure s as high as 19 for other high street agents. On average other agents were reducing between 20-50% of their stock over this period, suggesting perhaps that initial valuations were too high (sadly sometimes common practise to gain the instruction in the first place) or their efforts to sell at the desired price were unsuccessful. 
Slow Moving Properties 
Of the 19 agents featured, Strawberry came out in the top third with only 13 slow movers compared to the figure of 40 shown by one of the larger and fast-growing chains. Some of the ‘big boys’ had over half of their stock classed as slow moving over this period. 
The conclusion of this independent report? 
It’s not only us here shouting from the rooftops that we get our valuations spot on from the beginning and we work hard to sell fast at a good price – the statistics from the experts show that is exactly what is happening! 
Forget the rest, trust the best. 

Strawberry the Buy to Let experts are here to help you 11th July 2016 

The idea of Buy to Let may have taken a few hits recently due to changes in the stamp duty and tax implications for rental properties but, even with these new arrangements in mind, Buy to Let can still provide a steady return and a solid long-term investment. 
In a time where very little else with the financial world can be relied upon and interest rates on savings are almost non-existent, a well-planned property purchase can give investors a means to make the most of their money. The key to being a financially savvy landlord lies in the homework done before purchase. At Strawberry we have always been aware of this and we understand that both new and existing landlords may not always be in possession of all of the facts they will need to make an informed decision or indeed simply may not have the time to go through what can be a lengthy process. 
The world of property is an ever-changing one and the popularity of areas can switch from one to another rather rapidly. Letting is an extremely important part of what we do day-to-day – it’s ‘in our business blood’ if you will – and we are therefore always VERY aware of exactly what a great rental property looks like and where it will be located. 
The specialist service we offer to existing and would-be landlords utilises all the knowledge we have gained over our 30 years in the business and involves searching to find the right property (regardless whether it is on sale with Strawberry or with other agents), viewing upon your behalf, reporting on condition and potential, advising on the highest rental which could be achieved and looking at any additional work which could maximise yield even further – essentially everything from finding a property to getting it ‘top end’ rental ready. The greatness doesn’t even stop there. By matching your needs with one of our 4 landlord management packages we will continue to be there right beside you, looking after your interests and helping you to have as close to a stress-free let as is possible. 
So, finding the perfect property, dealing with agents and solicitors, providing access to trusted contractors, achieving the premium rental price and allocating a portfolio manager to be your one single point of contact to maximise your asset - what charge do we make for this essential landlord’s service? Wait for it ……… absolutely nothing at all!! 
To take advantage of this fabulous free service and start to see where your investment would flourish just get in contact or pop in to see us. There’s no obligation – except to be blown away by the potential! 

Why using on-line property agents can put you at the back of the queue 4th July 2016 

Everyone likes to think they’re good at spotting bargains and savvy when it comes to exactly how much you should pay for any given service. I count myself amongst those who are sensible with money and don’t pay higher prices unless they are truly justified. There are however a few exceptions where I know, from hard-earned past experience, that you get exactly what you pay for and should not be tempted by ‘ too good to be true’ offers or deals. 
This brings us onto the subject of fixed-fee on-line estate agents and what exactly you can expect for you money (which can, we shouldn’t forget, still be close to £1000). 
When it comes to selling your home there are many aspects to be addressed within the process. We’ve been in the business long enough to know the actual costs (in terms of pounds and man hours involved) within each step and have strived to trim these down to the very least we believe is possible to charge. 
Valuation is the first step and the best advantage we have in this is our constantly up to date, very local knowledge in the market and this doesn’t add anything to the cost of our service because we offer valuations for free anyway! Valuations from on-line agents however will most probably not include all of the lovely knowledge and realism we bring to the party because it will be handled by a regional agent who may live and operate a very long distance from where your home actually is. Let’s face it, you could come up with your own estimate by using on-line services such as Zoopla and probably be just as accurate. 
So, you get your marketing started and hopefully attract some potential buyers. Again without someone there acting upon your behalf day in and day out the sales particulars may not be refreshed to keep attracting attention, valuable ‘tweaks’ will almost certainly not be made following feedback received from viewings and your sale may simply be relying upon an ‘off chance’ of it being seen on a drive-past or a browse on-line. 
Celebrations begin when you have a buyer and the sale actually starts in earnest. Even in my most optimistic mood I’d have to say that this is the part where the stress can begin to build. We all know how ‘particular’ people can be when they are buying anything but when it’s something as expensive and important as a home they can have expectations which would be testing even to the most saintly amongst us! There can be much to-ing and fro-ing, endless questions and inexplicable delays when the chain of people and professionals involved don’t always recognise just how important the progression of your sale is. You may be very lucky and have a relatively stress-free experience but we predict that this is the stage where you will need most support, reassurance and pressure applied upon your behalf. Imagine therefore how frustrated you would be to find that, just as your sale seems to be collapsing around you, your on-line agent’s input is merely to provide a call-centre phone number to ring which places you in a queue of callers waiting to be answered…. 
There are many essential elements to achieving a successful sale and many of these cannot always be provided remotely, especially support which you need immediately and in-person. A low cost may be attractive but is it realistic to expect that everything you really need is covered within this? At Strawberry we’d rather work on the basis that we will always keep our prices competitive whilst keeping our service levels high. We may from time to time be able to offer lower prices and we will always ensure that we shout about these to make sure new vendors are aware that they can, very occasionally, take advantage of something which isn’t too good to be true. 

Strawberry Summer Madness! 23rd June  

We’ve had such a great quarter in Sales - which is always welcomed - but it has left us with a shortage of properties to show to all those lovely prospective buyers who come to us. There’s nothing we love more than matching a buyer with their perfect new home so we desperately want to get some new instructions to present to them. For that reason we have decided to offer our best rate ever until the end of August
So here’s the detail…….. For every new instruction received before 31/08/16 we will honour the unbelievable rate of just 0.75%!! We might have gone just a little bit mad but we just need to help the buyers out there find exactly what they want. The fact that it is also a GREAT help to vendors to save money in the process of selling is a lovely big bonus!! 
If you’ve just started to think about selling, or you are already with another agent who’s just not impressed you, come and speak to us about our pro-active approach to marketing your property. You’ll get the same great personalised service and the same experienced, enthusiastic team on your side; you’ll simply pay less to get it all! 
Sometimes there genuinely is a fabulous offer with no catches……….. 

Come and enjoy Strawberry’s at the Fair 9th June 2016 

Always at the heart of the local community, Strawberry are very proud to be taking part in this weekend’s Street Fair in Barrow. From 10am until 4pm we will be providing refreshing tea & coffee and scrummy biscuits & cakes in front of Strawberry Cottage. We will also be holding a raffle in aid of Rainbows and have a lovely prize for the lucky winner. Make sure that you come and say hello to us – just follow the beautiful light from our great new window displays……. 

Newsflash - Local buyers buy from local agents 7th June 2016  

If you are a vendor (or a soon-to-be vendor) in the Barrow or Sileby area I urge you to get in touch with Strawberry and speak to us about achieving a quick sale at a good sales price. Whilst we all understand that many buyers do their first ‘search’ on line we also know that the old-fashioned method of visiting a favoured area and driving around the locality is still very much the done thing. Sat Nav aids us immensely in our day to day lives but it doesn’t help that much when we simply want to make sure we are seeing every single property which is available within any particular area. 
Put yourself in the position of a buyer who knows they want to live in close proximity to Barrow or Sileby. By visiting an agent in town they may see many properties across a wide radius but isn’t there always just the feeling of missing out, even just one, of the potential new homes to be viewed in their village(s) of choice? 
Many of the people who come to Strawberry Cottage have already done their ‘drive-round’ but wish to learn more about the local services. With a choice of convenient parking at either end of the street and the wonderful variety of shops and cafes to explore, our office location is the ideal place to see lots and lots of very local properties but also to gather even more useful knowledge – information about the transport links, schools, pubs, restaurants – all from genuinely local people who know what makes this location such a great place to live. 
We pride ourselves in being as pro-active as possible on behalf of each and every one of our clients so when we have a buyer within our reach we will do our very best to find them exactly what they are looking for and present it to them in the best way possible. If your property isn’t with us I’m afraid to say it’s just not getting that extra special ‘boost’ from an agent who is at the very heart of the community and knows what would-be new residents are looking for. 
Local Buyers Buy from Local Agents - Strawberry Lettings & Sales

A shining beacon in Barrow High Street 1st June 2016 

So in my last blog I spoke about the importance of good photographs within your property particulars. With Strawberry as your agent the great presentation doesn’t end there……… Those of you who keep tabs on local happenings may have noticed the latest addition to Strawberry Cottage- our wonderful window displays, highlighting each and every one of our properties both by day and night. Part of our strategy is to make sure that we, as a company, are always noticed and therefore our clients receive the attention that they deserve from all of those lovely buyers and tenants out there. Neon pink and blue ‘halos’ are very difficult to ignore and they make sure that passers-by stop to look at the latest particulars – it may just be a small thing we’ve done to be even more eye-catching than usual but it’s having a great effect. If you’ve not seen the displays yourself make a note to drop by next time you are in Barrow – you can’t miss us! 

Forget the Nightmares, keep it sweet with Strawberry 9th May 2016 

There’s hardly a day goes by where you don’t see something on the TV suggesting that the world of lettings is a very dark one….. I’m thinking ‘Nightmare Tenants’, ‘Slum Landlords’, ‘Can’t Pay..’etc. – you know how they go. It probably makes for very good television but it’s enough to put anyone off being a Landlord or Tenant for life! 
It may well be that some people do experience the worst side of things but Strawberry clients needn’t worry, we make sure that adequate precautions are taken to avoid all things stressful. We start with our tenant checks which are VERY thorough. Nothing gets past us and we make sure that references are genuine and are entirely satisfactory. Without a crystal ball it’s difficult to see what might arise in the future so whilst we may be happy that we’re starting on a good footing we ensure that the future also stays bright by insisting that our tenants have a liability policy as a minimum. This will cover for the accidental damage of the Landlord’s property to a value of around £5000 and can be further enhanced by a contents policy which we are also able to recommend via our trusted partners. 
On the flip side, we’ve been in the lettings business long enough to know a good Landlord when we see one and if we come across any practices we think may be detrimental to a harmonious let we use our skills to iron them out! We have a very good relationship with our clients and, like us, they know how to keep things fair and professional at all times. From an insurance point of view we always inform our Landlords of the recommended protection and policies to cover for legal eviction, damage and lost rental income so even if things do go sour, losses are kept to a bare minimum. 
The protection of possessions, property, income, deposit and our clients’ interests are daily fare for Strawberry as we have the experience and the contacts to provide peace of mind. Regardless of whether you are a Tenant or a Landlord forget the rest, forget the nightmares; pick the best and make the most of letting. 

Independence - Yay!! 28th April 

Client feedback is very important to us at Strawberry. We listen very carefully to what our customers say and we sometimes make small tweaks to our service offering dependent on what we hear. Thankfully the vast majority of comments we receive suggest that we should simply keep doing more of what we already do so well but when someone does make a suggestion our independence allows us to consider anything (within reason of course!!). The fact that we are, and always will be, an independent agent is one of the key factors in our success. Unlike a large, unwieldy corporate we can be flexible and rapid in our response to local happenings and market factors. When we think of new ideas which would benefit our clients we can implement them instantly, there’s no need to have a ‘roll out’ company-wide and we don’t have to hold a whole series of board meetings to mull things over. The lack of a branch network and highly paid management team has the added benefit of keeping our running costs low and this in turn keeps our prices genuinely competitive all year round. No short term gimmicks or offers from us; we gain and maintain our customers by pricing fairly and over-delivering on service. We don’t have to ask head office if we can go that extra mile, we just do it!! 
The energy which Strawberry has become quite famous for is used to its very best effect in selling, letting and finding property. We don’t get distracted by a desire to grow bigger than the rest or by a quest for world domination, we simply get on with what our customers want us to do and maintain that personal relationship which is sadly becoming a thing of the past in the ever-expanding world of corporate business. 
If you like the idea of being centre of attention then come and speak to us about your property needs. If you're buying, selling, renting or letting we can focus on getting things moving your way. 
Strawberry Lettings & Sales - Your Local Estate Agent & Lettings Agent

The Strawberry quick guide to Quorn 18th April 

So here we are with part two of our guide to Charnwood villages. Today I want to give you a little bit of information about one of the most popular locations within the area – the village of Quorn. 
Located just off the A6 the village has a population of around 5,100 (based on the 2011 census). The residents are very well served by a number of pubs and restaurants, serving a variety of fare from good old-fashioned home cooking to more adventurous and specialised cuisine. The choices available include Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai and traditional Fish & Chips. The village has a distinct centre which attracts many visitors daily as it includes a post office, pharmacy, supermarket, hairdresser/ beauty salon, gift shop and a choice of two cafes - perfect to enjoy a coffee or something a little more indulgent. There are a number of other businesses who provide a variety of services all located just a very short walk from the main central car park. 
The dental practice and the doctor’s surgery also form part of the village centre, both very valuable resources to local residents and part of the great support network for those who choose not to venture into Loughborough despite the fact that it is just a matter of minutes away on the regular bus service. 
St Bartholomew’s school provides primary education for children in Quorn and secondary options include Rawlins within the village itself or Humphrey Perkins in nearby Barrow upon Soar. Continuing on the family theme, you will find a huge variety of homes available reflecting all styles, periods and lifestyles. Properties for small (and even growing) families has become much more available thanks to a number of new developments on the periphery of the village close to the A6 boundary. 
So what can I give you as my more ‘unusual’ fact about Quorn? No famous dinosaurs to tell you about this time (despite the history of granite quarrying nearby) but did you know that the village was originally called Quorndon but was shortened in the late 1880s to remove the postal confusion caused by the fact that there was a Quarndon in Derbyshire? 
Quorn is a great place with a real vibrancy about it by day and by night. If you think it could be the place for you then get in touch and we can reveal the great properties we have for rent and for sale right in the heart of things. 
Quorn / Quorndon - Strawberry Lettings & Sales  Guide to Quorn

Has Easter left you realising that your home just isn’t big enough anymore? 11th April 2016 

So now that the Easter eggs have been eaten and the children have gone back to school are you feeling a little deflated or just pleased to be experiencing a bit of calm again? If family space was an issue during the break then why not think about moving to somewhere a little bigger before the summer holidays are upon you! 
Creating a better environment for family get-togethers (or those pesky ‘stay at home because it’s raining’ days) needn’t be as costly as you think. Clever choice of location, property type (and of course agent) means that you might be able to achieve a significant step up the property ladder without breaking the bank. 
At Strawberry we are very much more than just your average agent. Our aim is not to simply sell or rent as quickly as possible without helping with the all-important detail. We are specialists in relocation and in buy to let so we know how to match the needs of our clients with their ideal home and how to get the very most out of your ‘bricks and mortar’ investment. Keeping our fingers well and truly on the pulse we also know which properties are selling particularly well and we usually have potential buyers poised to look at new instructions so getting you a good price for your current property is just another part of our service. 
Don’t be put off a much needed move before you have a good look at the costs in detail. With Strawberry on your side from the very beginning the reality of getting what you want for less than you thought might just be a possibility. Get in touch with us now and start the conversation and having a free valuation without any obligation to take it further. 

Your local agent with local knowledge, sharing helpful information on Charnwood village locations 22nd March 2016 

So I’ve spoken a few times in the past about the real value of having an agent based within the locality of your property search area and, in attempt to avoid simply repeating my very long list of benefits, I came around to thinking that it might be very useful to share our wisdom and expand a little more on some of the fabulous Charnwood villages which surround us. 
Strawberry have a very strong presence in most, if not all. In fact if you take a drive around you’ll see an increasing number of Strawberry boards popping up as people recognise the advantage of having local experts on their side and the benefits of receiving the more personalised service we are able to provide. 
It seems to me to make good sense to start with the village in which our High Street office is located – Barrow upon Soar. This large village sits in the Soar Valley, between Leicester and Loughborough, in the Northern part of the county of Leicestershire. It has a population of just over 5000 people who enjoy the benefits of a number of businesses on the High Street, including a supermarket, post office, florist, newsagent, gift shop and cafes. In terms of food there’s something to suit every taste with Fish & Chips, Pizza, Chinese and Indian food to take-away and a number of pubs and restaurants catering for everything from simple pub-grub to something much more ‘gastro’. And let’s not forget that essential services are also provided by the village estate agents (Strawberry of course), optician, beauty salon, dentist and doctor’s surgery (to name but a few). 
Accommodation is varied within the village and reflects its growth throughout the years. Whether you prefer a period property or a new build, semi, detached or flat there will be something to suit you, probably all within a short walk from our own office. 
If you have children of school age they will be very well served by the primary school, Hall Orchard, and Humphrey Perkins comprehensive high school. Even the smaller ones are catered for with both Playgroup and Nursery facilities available centrally in the village itself. 
Transport links are excellent thanks to the proximity of Barrow to the A6, taking you directly into Leicester or Loughborough but also providing a quick route to other destinations via the M1 motorway. 
To end on something just a little more unusual….. Barrow has taken its place in history due to a Plesiosaur which was excavated there in 1851. Found in a nearby lime pit, the ‘Barrow Kipper’ now resides in the New Walk museum in Leicester but there is a sign commemorating its discovery on the roundabout within the village centre. Dinosaurs don’t often rate highly in our buyers ‘wish list’ items but it’s a great thing to talk about at dinner parties!! 
If you’d like to know even more about Barrow or another location within the area you know who to call! 
Barrow Upon Soar - Strawberry Lettings & Sales

The importance of a good inventory 11th March 2016 

Think of the most difficult memory game you’ve ever played. Feeling frustrated just thinking about it? Well, that’s what it would be like if you had to try to remember exactly what was in your property before you handed it over to your tenant. Difficult enough if you are the owner of a single rental but how difficult it would be to remember the detail of every single item within five properties, or ten? 
Now think of the last time you, or someone you know, used a hire car. Without checking the car all over for bumps and scrapes how do you know the condition that it was in when you were handed the keys? Upon return, how difficult would it be to prove that the nasty dent in the front wing was not caused by you and had been there all along? Lots of questions we know but it is useful to think about the difficulties which can be encountered when up front lists and checks aren’t thorough or indeed aren’t made at all. 
The same applies to property inventories. The preparation of an inventory isn’t always ‘front of mind’ when a new tenancy is about to begin. The more ‘financially obvious’ agenda items such as rental value, deposit, payment arrangements etc. seem far more important but our warning is that landlords or corner-cutting agents who fail to treat the inventory with the significance it deserves do so at their peril. 
At Strawberry we know the true value of carrying out the task thoroughly, accurately and efficiently. When it comes to returning/ retaining the tenants deposit or proving that significant damage has been caused, it can be somewhat of an uphill battle when there is no formal documentation to establish presence and condition at the beginning of the tenancy. 
If we could leave you just one point it would be – Never underestimate the value of a good inventory – and if you want to see an example of a great inventory just ask Strawberry! 

Online versus Traditional – an independent update 29th February 2016 

We have been reading a plethora of articles recently about how on-line agents compare to those on the high street and we thought a few independent facts might be useful for those of you out there trying to make your own decision. 
So, let’s start by considering the findings of a recent ‘Property Industry Eye’ report which found that that the large majority of people were either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their experience of using a high street agent and many thought that using this more traditional route to market added as much as 5% to the value of their home. Of those questioned only 4% had used an online agent so high street is still the agent of choice for the vast majority of vendors. In fact, the market share enjoyed by online estate agents is already showing a decrease – from 2.94% last October to just 2.71% now; not a huge decrease we admit but significant when we consider that there was a belief that the online service would take the market by storm. 
The feeling now is that traditional agents have a long and successful future ahead of them providing that they stick to some very important rules. At Strawberry we strive to always be the best at what we do so we’ve had a look at this list and used it as a check for ourselves. 
We don’t want to show off too much but this list covers just some of the things we do to make sure we remain at the very top of our game, there are so many more extra special aspects to our service. The main surprise for us within the report was that it made no mention at all of the main benefit of having an agent ‘in-situ’ if you will; knowing the area, understanding local features, issues and trends – essentially being part of the community in question rather than simply making remote guesses!! 
If you are thinking about putting your property on the market and aren’t sure which way to go with your marketing come and have an initial chat with us and we will show you exactly what makes Strawberry different from the rest of the bunch! 
Requirements for a good and successful agent 
Do we do this? 
Understand with total clarity what makes it different from its many competitors’ 
‘Utilise all the NAEA and ARLA Association marketing and support services’ 
‘Ensure staff are highly qualified and receive regular training’ 
‘Embrace routes to market technology’ 
‘Develop and manage your database and pipeline for new customers’ 
‘Utilise customer feedback at every stage’ 
‘Shout about their success’ 
‘Evolve and adapt!’ 
Lots and lots of other things to make sure our clients are happy time after time, after time? 

The Strawberry guide to stress-free selling 24th Feb 2016 

Now here’s a topic that we could devote pages and pages to but to keep things brief and as useful as possible here’s a little summary – Our Top 5 Tips on Selling your Property. 
Tip 1 – Make that very important first decision 
To save a few lines (and save you lots of hassle) we’re assuming you have made a good choice of agent – Strawberry obviously – and therefore we can confidently say you will have valuable expert support throughout the entire sales process. 
Tip 2 – Start from the best possible place 
You love your home but for whatever reason it’s no longer where you want to be. The aim though is to make it the exact place your potential buyers want to be. Spruce up any areas that are looking a little bit tired and think ‘neutrality’ – bold colours aren’t to everyone’s taste and’ fashion statements’ in décor can be very subjective! Try to think back about what features attracted you to the property in the first place and emphasise these as much as you can. 
Tip 3 - Show off 
Quality photos and floorplans are essential. Quick snaps taken by an agent on an iphone will do you no favours. We realised the power of good images very early in our business and we stand by it now – that’s why we insist on using our own photographer who will take professional photos with the right lens, in the right light and from the angle which gives a true representation of the proportions of every room. 
Tip 4 – Be flexible 
A new property arriving on the market is often met with great excitement. Potential buyers who haven’t quite found exactly what they are after are always very keen to see anything new – it might just be the one! This means that there tends to be a ‘surge’ in activity in the first few weeks and it is important to capitalise on this opportunity. You should therefore try to accommodate all requests for a viewing (within reason). Even if you can’t manage these due to other commitments then simply ask us and we’ll make sure you, and the buyers, don’t miss out. 
Tip 5 – Delegate and relax 
Trust your agent. You know your property but we know how to show it off to potential buyers – it’s our job! Even if you choose to handle the viewings yourself we will still advise and coach you to maximise each opportunity. When it comes to negotiations we understand that nerves can start to jangle but once again remember that we are very familiar with the situation and know when to stand firm but equally recognise a great offer when we see one. 

Landlords don’t crumble under the pressure – let Strawberry take out the stress! 7th Feb 2016 

It may seem like Landlords are having new rules, regulations and requirements placed upon them on a weekly basis at the moment. We’re not feeling too disheartened by this, firstly because at least some of the changes will, in the long run, be beneficial to landlords (a little bit of ‘pain’ up front but perhaps safer long term) and secondly that with the right agent in charge and comprehensive management in place a let can still be financially viable and problem-free at the same time. 
So the latest requirement is that landlords carry out ‘Right to Rent’ checks on their tenants to make sure that they are living in the UK legally. This in itself isn’t too difficult to do (although for more complicated cases where someone has only a limited residency time more frequent checks/ records will be required) but on top of everything else which has come within the landlord’s remit it now means that a considerable amount of time needs to be set aside for the more ‘administrative’ aspects of each let. 
Carrying out concise and useful inventories, the safe and legal Lodging of deposits, comprehensive tenant checks and keeping abreast of fire/smoke/electrical/gas/ legionella etc. regulations – when everything comes together this can be a full-time job in itself. The common thread which seems to run through the majority of the tasks (new and old) is that failure to carry them out adequately can be costly and cutting corners is therefore simply not an option. 
At Strawberry we have a range of service packages to give our landlords the option to complement their own requirements/ abilities. It is true that the management of lets forms an important part of our business (the ‘bread and butter’ of the business if you will) but for us personally it means so much more – genuine and happy tenants, safe and unstressed landlords, profitable and hassle-free lets. The structure and strict organisation of our business means that we run our management contracts very tightly. Attention to even the most minor of details is guaranteed, absolutely nothing is missed or overlooked and we are very aware of the early signs when a good let is starting to go wrong, for whatever reason. There can sometimes be a feeling that management fees are an unnecessary cost, however with the various new pressures now being placed on the landlord and the risks associated with not complying, they make much more sense now than they ever had. 

Landlords – Do you know about your new ‘Right to Rent’ checks? 3rd Feb 2016 

From 1st February there is a new requirement for Landlords to ensure that their tenants have a legitimate ‘Right to Rent’. In a bid to restrict those who are living within the UK illegally the government has placed the onus on those with property to rent to ensure that adequate checks are carried out on prospective tenants. This means that from the start of any new tenancy a landlord must check exactly who will be living at the property, look at their documentation to ensure that they are indeed entitled to remain in the UK and then keep dated copies of these documents on file. There will obviously be additional action required if the tenants UK residency has a time limit applied and follow-up checks may therefore be required at a specified time - further guidance on this can be obtained from the Home Office or via . The important thing to note is that failure to carry out these new checks could result in fines of up to £3000 and we will therefore be ensuring that our landlords are aware of their new duty and are confident to either get the information they need for themselves or instruct us to do this upon their behalf. 

Happy Birthday to Us! Happy Birthday to Us! Happy Birthday dear Strawberry....... 21st January 2016 

In Chinese culture the number 8 is believed to be very lucky. Within our business we also believe it’s a pretty special number as this year Strawberry Lettings and Sales is 8 years old! 
As the New Year begins it is traditional to look back over the previous 12 months and review significant events, reflect upon achievements and make resolutions for the future. At this special time for us I’d like to share with you the scale of the transformation from day one of Strawberry trading to the High Street business you know us as today. 
So our beginnings were what I believe would be referred to as ‘humble’. My ambition was strong, my determination to succeed was legendary – sadly it was only my financial situation which stood between me and world (well, the estate agency world at least) domination! Like many successful businesses before, Strawberry had to live within its means in the early days and in my case that meant that ‘Strawberry central’ was in fact located in my garage at home. A converted garage it may have been but a makeshift office premises never-the-less. 
From a personal point of view I knew that there was a gap in the market for an agent who provided great customer service and who delivered on any promises made. I’d seen, first-hand, the general service levels with the industry and was amazed that a lack of pro-activity and professionalism could still be rewarded with business. Simply applying the principle of treating customers as I myself would wish to be treated didn’t seem too revolutionary to me but there were still those I knew who doubted that there was room in the local marketplace for another lettings or sales agent. 
The middle part of my story would involve tales of hard work, long hours and feeling like splitting myself into 10 parts to handle all aspects of running the business on my own however with a mind to keeping this post shorter than a book I’ll leave it at that….. 
So here we are today. From garage to shared premises to our current position - Strawberry Lettings and Sales being very much part of the local community with its own premises in a bustling high street location. Yes, we are a very successful business, but of more importance to me personally, and to the lovely 5 members of staff who help me keep things running on a daily basis, is the fact that we have made a real impression on the vast number of clients we have helped over the past 8 years. We have remained true to my original aim to provide excellence in customer service but we have done this whilst remaining competitive through ever-changing times. Our reputation as an experienced, pro-active, professional and ‘no-nonsense’ agent is growing day by day and people love the fact that we have remained independent and focussed on what matters to those who trust us with their properties. 
2016 will see us grow even more and we have plans to add a member (or two) to our staff to maintain our high level of customer satisfaction. I’m very lucky to have both my husband and daughter already involved within the business as they share the same high values and insistence on quality as both I and the others within the team do – it’ll be difficult to find more just like them but we’ll approach that task with the same tenacity we always apply! We’ll continue to invest in the best technology to market our properties, including the launch of a new, improved and truly mobile-ready website. The company you see today may be a hugely different one to the ‘seed’ that began 8 years ago but I can guarantee that the future will continue to be Strawberry shaped and will involve more of the same! 
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our customers past and present who have helped us on our journey and helped me form the business that I love so much. 

Landlords if you’re thinking about buying property get in there quick! 16th January 2016 

..........And vendors - we're going to need lots more 2 and 3 bedroom properties 
The new changes announced in the Chancellor’s summer budget start to come into effect from April 2016 so this current tax year will be the last to see standard stamp duty being applied and mortgage interest costs being able to be deducted from rental before profits are calculated. 
The stamp duty and tax changes introduce potential headaches (and financial penalties) for both existing and future landlords and are controversial to say the least. Petitions have been launched and challenges planned however we must all work on the assumption that the new arrangements WILL come into force and therefore act accordingly. 
If you have been thinking about buying your first buy-to-let property or increasing the size of your existing portfolio it would be wise to complete your purchase sooner rather than later. You have until April 2016 to pay the lower level of stamp duty and just this financial year to make the most from your first year’s rental income and to maximise your tax savings. 
Even if you have yet to identify a particular property which matches your needs we strongly recommend that you come and speak with us at Strawberry, let us help you find exactly what you are looking for and get you earning as soon as possible. As well as finding the ideal property (ahead of the last minute buy-to-let surge), the chances are we will also have the perfect tenant in mind so that you waste no valuable time at all! 
And on the flip side...... 
Vendors get those properties on the market!! 
The rush for Landlords to purchase their properties before April this year means that now is the optimal time to sell. In particular we think we will have a huge demand for 2 and 3 bedroom properties in Loughborough or any of the Charnwood villages. If you were just at the initial stage of getting ‘sale ready’ then let us know as soon as possible and we’ll not only give you an accurate, realistic valuation but we ‘ll also help you make the most of the property rush! 
At Strawberry we only work with suppliers of products and services who meet our own very high standards and complement our own expertise. Whilst we know a whole lot about buy-to-let and the impending changes we still check our calculations with those at the sharp edge of the finances. For us our mortgage and protection consultants of choice are Vickers Young and we are also happy for you to pick their brains. If you have any questions about your next move contact Corby MacDonald on 07894 713301 or by email at 

A summing up of the Strawberry year 20th December 2016 

Yes folks it’s that time of year when we all take a look back at what the year has been and start to think about how we’ll do things differently in the shiny New Year ahead. Whilst we are still very much hard at work at Strawberry almost right up until Santa makes his appearance, we’ve still been able to reflect on what 2015 looked like and what shape 2016 might take. 
As far as the business itself is concerned the last 12 months have been fabulous. We’ve had soaring success in both Sales and Lettings and the very distinctive Strawberry boards have been popping up all over the East Midlands in both rural and town centre locations. Even more satisfying for us is the fact that the feedback we’ve had from clients has been excellent. We strive to differentiate ourselves from other agents with the same vigour as we strive to differentiate our clients’ properties from their competitors already on the market. In valuing and marketing homes we’ve been accentuating the positive features with great photography, working on the less favourable aspects utilising home staging and generally making sure that we are professional, fair and competitive in everything we do. There have been many occasions this year where our local knowledge and experience have stood us in good stead, taking on properties which could not be sold or let by others and turning them round in a very impressive time and also achieving the kind of sales prices that the more pessimistic (or should we say less hard working) agents out there said couldn’t be achieved. 
So away from the new stuff we’ve also been looking after our customers by providing information on new products and services, new legislation and regulations and everything of consequence within the wide world of property. Amongst the bigger stories of the year have been the new smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations and the new legionella requirements. Our landlords were the first to know about the huge penalties they could face through non-compliance but our tenants were also kept totally up-to-date so that they understood what to expect and what part they too had to play in staying safe. Further support for our lovely Landlords came in the shape of new rental protection and eviction insurance products and by the introduction of the new initial property check after just 2 months. Speed was also of the essence when we introduced our new express move in service, helping those in potentially difficult situations get themselves ‘home and dry’ in record time. Vendors and buyers were by no means left out as we extended our speedy call back service to those in need of information or assistance, investigated new property portals being brought to market and advised on what the national picture was with regard to sales prices, chains and average negotiation tactics. 
It may be somewhat of an overused phrase but “If it’s not broken then don’t try to fix it” probably reflects how we feel about the way ahead. So expect more great advice, great offers and great enthusiasm to help you through your property journey……. 

Strawberry - keeping clients legal throughout the year 16th December 2015 

Regardless of whether you are a buyer, vendor, landlord or tenant there’s one thing you can be assured of as a Strawberry client and that’s the fact that you will always be kept informed of any new legislation or requirements, even just subtle (but important) changes to existing regulations. We like to share information and use all communication channels at our disposal so we may even be helping those who have dared to use another agent buy hey, we’re generous that way! 
All joking aside, we see it as our duty to keep abreast of everything relating to property ownership. We understand that our clients tend to live fairly busy lives nowadays and it’s therefore possible that they might have missed notification of something which is relevant to their situation in buying, selling, letting or renting. After all it’s very rare that topics such as smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations or legionella risks within domestic premises make the local or national news. These two examples have however been the subject of new legislation in 2015 and we’ve made sure that we’ve explained exactly what everyone’s new responsibilities are. As far as we see it we are helping in two very important ways; firstly we are protecting our clients from the possibility of being fined (or in some cases even imprisoned) for not complying but secondly we are protecting the general public by ensuring that all necessary safety measures are put in place and maintained within properties across the UK. 
For full details of what the new requirements are please just look on our easy to navigate website or get in contact and we’ll be happy to talk you through the best way to stay safe and legal. 

Strawberry - Blooming with great tips throughout 2015 6th December 2015 

December is the time when we start to reflect upon the year behind us and look forward to the fresh new one ahead. We could start to think about the joys we’ve had in terms of property sales and lettings (our most successful year to date) but we thought it might be more fitting to have a quick run through all the useful tips and important information we’ve shared with our clients in 2015. 
We started the year with a summary of the housing market in general and highlighted the things which were making life a little easier for buyers, a theme which we came back to mid-year when we reported on the shift regarding ‘chains’ within house sales. We explained the true value of rental protection and eviction insurance and explored the perils and expensive pitfalls that can arise when lets go wrong. The wealth of our experience was shared when we wrote about finding good investment property, getting your own home ‘sale ready’ to grab the attention of buyers and making sure that rental properties were ‘winter ready’ to reduce inconvenient and costly call outs. We covered the topics of on-line house sales vs personal attention, what ‘free’ can sometimes mean when it comes to fees, the importance of good photographs and what should be expected when it comes to price reductions and negotiations. 
From a Strawberry perspective we were very pleased to let our customers know about exciting sales offers, speedy call backs, express move-in for tenants and early initial property checks. We tried out a new property portal to assess its effectiveness for our vendors and landlords and maintained our membership of the NAEA and ARLA to make sure we were up to date on EVERYTHING upon behalf of everyone we serve. 
Quite a busy year I’m sure you will agree so let’s look forward to 2016 and how we can continue to be helpful, pro-active and entirely on top of all things property. 

Landlords are your properties ready for winter? – Strawberry have a few tips to minimise the winter blues. 27 November 2015 

Ok folks we are now heading towards the end of November and so far we’ve not had many days to remind us that winter is well and truly here. We’re probably not going to be this lucky for too much longer. The frost and (dare we say it) the snow may just be around the corner. So, lovely landlords we are going to have to make sure all is in hand to avoid those emergency calls from tenants (which do have a habit of coming at the most inappropriate times – think Christmas day for instance!!). Boilers should of course always have an annual service in advance of them having to work that little bit harder keeping things toasty when the frosty mornings come. Gutters too need that little bit more attention to make sure they’re not building up to something unpleasant; clear out all the autumn leaves to make sure rain and hail can flow away freely and avoid the leaks and damp patches which might otherwise appear. Whilst we are at it why not go even further and make sure that any faulty windows or doors are repaired (or maybe even replaced) to keep the cold out and the warmth in. A cosy, dry tenant after all is a happy tenant and you’ll be protecting your investment too, which all round makes simple good sense. 

Strawberry's continued Sales success - with no chains attached! 2 November 2015 

Recent nation-wide research has suggested that there are now fewer chains involved in house sales than ever before. This is believed to be mostly due to the fact that the private rental sector remains strong and therefore many buyers are either tenants with no property to sell or existing landlords who may well also be cash buyers. Not so long ago only 1 sale in every 10 was ‘chain free’ but this is now closer to 1 in 3 nationally. There are some regional variations; London vendors for example are still most likely to experience a chain within their house sale, some of a fairly complex nature. So overall this is good news. Frustration can rise to a very high level when your own sale depends on the fate of so many people further down the line. In some cases the actual likelihood of everything falling in line at exactly the same time is small. In short we definitely won’t be mourning the demise of the chain! And this good news is only made better by the fact that the addition of Strawberry expertise on your side can make sure nothing holds you back. We leave nothing to fate and make sure that you stay fully informed and in control at all times – although in most cases our buyers don’t have long to wait before that all-important ‘Sold’ is achieved. 

What’s in a title? Confidence and reassurance. 17th October 2015 

So what’s in a title? We’d say quite a reasonable amount of importance if that title is ‘Members of NAEA’. It may not be immediately apparent why our membership of the National Association of Estate Agents should be a big deal to our clients but here’s just a little reminder as to why we believe that it is worth the time, money and effort we put into maintaining our status. We work in an industry where there is no legal requirement to have completed any training or relevant qualifications. Now there are a some really good people out there but unfortunately there is always the risk of finding yourself with an agent who is perhaps not qualified or reliable enough to be able to provide an accurate valuation, help find a buyer, negotiate a sale or simply look after your best interests. Rather than take a chance I’m sure that most people want to have the confidence that they are dealing with someone who has signed up to a code of practice and has appropriate levels of indemnity insurance to offer adequate protection. Should things take a turn for the worse I’m sure those same clients would also much rather know that they have access to a route of independent redress. Unlike some accreditations it’s not just something a company can ‘buy and flaunt’. We have had to meet a series of tough criteria to join the NAEA and are at risk of losing our membership if we do not meet our commitments at any time. We do not intend to let that happen so there’s just one more reason to trust Strawberry with your business and your property. 

It’s a property chain, but not as we know it 24 September 2015 

Now normally when we talk about a ‘property chain’ we think in the negative sense. It’s the news that any vendor dreads to hear as it means that the buyer will be relying on a number of sales to happen before he/ she is free to proceed in the purchase of the property. Always wishing to spread good cheer let me now tell you about a much more cheerful ‘property chain’ we experienced recently. It all started with two properties which we had been managing for a number of years. The landlords had both decided to sell and, being impressed by our lettings service, trusted Strawberry to market the properties upon their behalf. It didn’t take us long to find buyers for both; using our knowledge of the properties we were able to present them in their best light to both private buyers and investors and it was the latter category that provided success on both. With the sales progressing nicely we lost no time in getting the properties out there in front of more tenants and had actually got both let before the sales had even completed. From managing agent to sales agent to lettings agent to managing agent once again - a fabulous service from us and a fabulous result for the buyers who essentially got their properties and first tenants at the same time (and even at higher monthly rentals than they had expected). Result 

Our great sales offer means our fees are hundreds, not thousands 11 September 2015 

Great news for those on the move – two offers to keep selling costs low. Firstly let’s start with a FREE VALUATION for new clients or a FREE RE-VALUATION for properties we’ve already seen (we now offer free annual re-valuations). Secondly we’d like to introduce our GREAT SALES OFFER (valid for all instructions received before the end of September) - for just £999 plus VAT we will sell any property of any size. Our service remains at the very highest level, our valuations are as accurate as ever and our commitment to find the very best buyer in the shortest period of time remains – the only thing we’ve cut is the cost to sell. So take a minute to think about the savings you can achieve by taking us up on this great low cost sales package, but don’t take too long – act now and we could have you settled into your new property by Christmas! 
Call us on 01509 414787 or pop into our office on Barrow High Street and let’s get moving. 

Let Strawberry help you protect your investment against the unthinkable 25 July 2015 

So, finding that your tenant is running a cannabis factory from your rental property might be an extreme case to illustrate why you need to have the right Landlord’s Insurance but it’s a possibility – a growing possibility at that – and it’s definitely something that you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you’re weighing up your risks. 
The fact of the matter is that situations like this CAN occur and any damage which results (think the whole of the house interior, including all fixtures and fittings, having been ripped out) is considered to be malicious damage and is therefore not covered under a general policy, even one designed for Buy to Let properties. 
‘Check the policy small print’ is therefore something we would advise all of our landlords to do. Even more basic than that however is choosing the right type of policy in the first place. Standard Home & Contents policies do not necessarily offer protection for damage caused by tenants so a specialised product from a reputable insurer is always a much safer bet. Some of the highest expenses can occur when the landlord: tenant relationship breaks down and whilst this is not something we like to dwell upon at the beginning of a new let, it must be considered as a possibility so why not make sure you can have access to the financial support and legal advice you need if you ever find yourself in this situation. 
There are no official qualifications required to become a landlord but sometimes we know that it appears like you need to be an expert on a number of specific areas – financial planning, relationship management, property maintenance and now insurance products as well! Luckily at Strawberry we can help you break through some of the jargon and point you in the right direction find a product which is right for your particular situation – or any unforeseen situation which might arise in the future. 

Others may tell you their service is free but what’s it really worth? 13 July 2015 

Every now and again I tell you all about a success we’ve had, in most cases these little treasures come after another agent (not one in particular, I think we’ve seen examples from most you could think of) has had the chance to sell or let and fallen short of the mark. 
So here’s another one which I’ll keep short and sweet. We were contacted recently by a landlord who had been advertising his property with another agent for more than 6 weeks. He chose his agent based on the letting costs – this particular agent didn’t charge a set-up fee. When he felt he had given them more than long enough to find him a tenant he came to us. Now, we charge a set-up fee; it’s competitive but it’s more than the ‘free’ service he’d got from the others. Surprise surprise we found him a lovely new tenant within 2 hours of the listing going live. Not only do we know what we are doing but we also know that there are costs associated with doing things right. In the world of Lettings & Sales you certainly get what you pay for – if it costs nothing it’s probably worth exactly that much……. 

Everyone looking for a bargain? That’s why you need a good agent to work upon your behalf 26 June 2015 

recent report from property portal Zoopla makes reference to the fact that buyers aren’t seeing the same level of ‘discount’ from asking price as they might have been in the past. The national average reduction being achieved through negotiation is only around 6.05%, the lowest level for over 5 years. Good news for vendors perhaps and bad news for buyers? We don’t necessarily think so. At the same time as we’ve seen this trend we’ve also seen a much higher number of sale price reductions. Somewhere between 40 and 50% of vendors nationwide have had to make at least one drop in asking price to tempt buyers to make an offer in the first place. Bearing this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that the vendors are then unlikely to offer much more in the way of an incentive to achieve the sale. 
So what does this tell us about current buying and selling conditions? We personally think that the market should be seen as a very competitive one. This offers good and bad points for everyone involved, regardless of whether they are buying or selling. It simply means that we all perhaps need to have our wits about us right from the beginning of the process. For our clients this means that we start with an accurate (and very much educated) valuation and make sure that the property is presented at its very best, reducing the probability of having to drop through lack of interest. When a buyer is found it then moves onto us using our experience to help our clients through the negotiation process. Having done our own job well we will most probably have more than one potential buyer in place and this in itself will decrease the need and the likelihood of a discount being necessary. Let’s see an internet only agency being able to help quite so much with all that!! 

Holiday snaps perhaps but property snaps? Never! 4th June 2015 

It finally looks like summer might be arriving and so our thoughts naturally turn towards those long awaited summer holidays. Whilst enjoying our well-earned break most of us will take loads and loads of photos, some of the surrounding scenery, some of friends and family and some of the fabulous experiences we’ve had whilst we’ve been there. Thanks to this being the digital age we no longer have to wait to have our photographs developed and we at least know what we’ve got before we leave the sunny skies behind. 
But despite the leap in technology and the reassurance it can offer how many times have you looked at the photographs when you’ve got back home and thought ‘it was so much better when you were actually there’. It might be that the mountains don’t look quite so high, the sea isn’t quite so twinkly or your family don’t look anywhere near as happy as you know they were at the time. Photographs can be frustrating sometimes. You are desperate to record what you see and you do your very best but often it’s just a very flat version of something you know was actually quite fabulous. 
We understand this all too well and that’s why we made the decision to take our photography sessions very seriously. Gone are the days when we simply take a few quick snaps at the end of our property visit (a practice we know still exists within the industry). We want to show every property at its very, very best and the use of the best equipment and the best photographer ensure that’s exactly what happens. We still might not do justice to every single individual feature in a property but we’ll make sure that light, room proportions and character are accurately reflected in the images we use to entice those viewings which could lead to a quick sale. 

On line versus in person – how would you like to have your home represented? 19 May 2015 

So I’ve been reading a few articles this week highlighting how many traditional agents have been criticising the marketing tactics of on-line agencies. There have been claims of ‘misleading messages’ regarding the exclusion of VAT from advertised fees and also the availability of assistance 24/7 when in truth it is simply a call answering service. 
I personally don’t take exception to either of these things. Firstly I credit the general public with the common sense to realise that VAT may have to be added to the final - after all we’re all used to having to look in the small print - and secondly I don’t particularly think that 24/7 help is a necessity as very little can be achieved in the wee small hours anyway. You try getting a solicitor to answer your calls after 5pm to see how your sale is progressing or indeed try to contact even the most desperate vendor at 11pm to ask if you can view their property…… 
My only thought on the subject of on-line agencies is that they omit one of the most important ingredients of a successful sales process and that is the personal touch. It’s a bit like trying to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend or loved one solely through Facebook. Again I’ve nothing against Facebook itself (in fact at Strawberry we embrace the reach and boost that it can give our properties). I just think that if you really needed someone to understand the finer details of a situation you’d most probably pick up the phone and chat rather than type in the details and wait for the delayed response….. Likewise with the sale of your home, there’s nothing can take the place of human intervention – people buy from people after all! You may yourself have bought something on the internet in the past but I bet you discussed it with at least one other person before you went on to make the actual purchase. At Strawberry we’re all about choice and we have a package to suit every type of client but within each we include the human touch and the local experience which make all the difference. 
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