Baldock Buy-to-Let Return / Yields – 1.7% to 6.3% a year

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The mind-set and tactics you employ to buy your first Baldock buy to let property needs to be different to the tactics and methodology of buying a home for yourself to live in. The main difference is when purchasing your own property, you may well pay a little more to get the home you (and your family) want, and are less likely to compromise. When buying for your own use, it is only human nature you will want the best, so that quite often it is at the top end of your budget (because as my parents always used to tell me – you get what you pay for in this world!).

Yet with a buy to let property, if your goal is a higher rental return – a higher price doesn’t always equate to higher monthly returns – in fact quite the opposite. Inexpensive Baldock properties can bring in bigger monthly returns. Most landlords use the phrase ‘yield’ instead of monthly return. To calculate the yield on a buy to let property one basically takes the monthly rent, multiplies it by 12 to get the annual rent and then divides it by the value of the property.

This means, if one increases the value of the property using this calculation, the subsequent yield drops. Or to put it another way, if a Baldock buy to let landlord has the decision of two properties that create the same amount of monthly rent, the landlord can increase their rental yield by selecting the lower priced property.

To give you an idea of the sort of returns in Baldock…

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Now of course these are averages and there will always be properties outside the lower and upper ranges in yields: they are a fair representation of the gross yields you can expect in the Baldock area.

As we move forward, with the total amount of buy to let mortgages amounting to £199,310,614,000 in the country, landlords need to be aware of the investment performance of their property, especially in the era of tax increases and tax relief reductions. Landlords are looking to maximise their yield – and are doing so by buying cheaper properties.

However, before everyone in Baldock starts selling their upmarket properties and buying cheap ones, yield isn’t the only factor when deciding on what Baldock buy to let property to buy.  Void periods (i.e. the time when there isn’t a tenant in the property between tenancies) are an important factor and those properties at the cheaper end of the rental spectrum can suffer higher void periods too. Apartments can also have service charges and ground rents that aren’t accounted for in these gross yields. Landlords can also make money if the value of the property goes up and for those Baldock landlords who are looking for capital growth, an altered investment strategy may be required.

In Baldock, for example, over the last 20 years, this is how the average price paid for the four different types of Baldock property have changed…

  • Baldock Detached Properties have increased in value by 274.1%
  • Baldock Semi-Detached Properties have increased in value by 267.3%
  • Baldock Terraced Properties have increased in value by 293.8%
  • Baldock Apartments have increased in value by 280.8%

It is very much a balancing act of yield, capital growth and void periods when buying in Baldock. Every landlord’s investment strategy is unique to them. If you would like a fresh pair of eyes to look at your portfolio, be you a private landlord that doesn’t use a letting agent or a landlord that uses one of my competitors – then feel free to drop in and let’s have a chat. What have you got to lose? 30 minutes and my tea making skills are legendary!

Great one bedroom investment opportunity in Baldock

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Available for sale through Country Propeties in Baldock at £165,000, this property seems like an ideal investment opportunity!   Less than half a mile from the mainline station to London and in a quiet development with allocated off road parking.  Anticipated annual yield of 4.7%.

Take a look at the advert here and call Country Properties to view ASAP!

 

Baldock’s New 3 Speed Property Market

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“What’s happening to the Baldock Property Market” is a question I am asked repeatedly.  Well, would it be a surprise to hear that my own research suggests that there isn’t just one big Baldock property market – but many small micro-property markets?

According to recent data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), I have discovered that at least three of these micro-property markets have emerged over the last 20+ years in the town.

For ease, I have named them the …

  1. lower’ Baldock Property Market.
  2. lower to middle’ Baldock Property Market.
  3. ‘middle’ Baldock Property Market.

 

The ‘lower’ and ‘lower to middle’ sectors of the Baldock property market have been fuelled over the last few years by two sets of buyers. The first set, making up the clear majority of those buyers, are cash rich landlord investors who are throwing themselves into the Baldock property market to take advantage of alluringly low prices and even lower interest rates. The other set of buyers in the ‘lower’ and ‘lower to middle’ Baldock property market are the first-time buyers (FTB), although the FTB market is in a state of unparalleled deadlock as it’s been trampled into near-immobility and incapacity by the new 2014 stricter mortgage affordability regulations and also fewer mortgages with low deposits.

Some of you may be interested to know how I have classified the three sectors ..

  1. lower’ Baldock housing market – the bottom 10% (in terms of value) of properties sold
  2. lower to middle’ Baldock housing market – lower Quartile (or lowest 25% in terms of value) of properties sold
  3. middle’ Baldock housing market – which is the median in terms of value

 

If one looks at the figures for North Hertfordshire District Council area you can see the three different sectors (lower, lower/middle and middle) have performed quite differently.

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You can quite clearly see that it is the ‘lower to middle’ market that has performed the best.

You might ask, what do all these different figures mean to homeowners and landlords alike?  Quite a lot – so let me explain. The worst performing sector (with the lowest Percentage uplift) was the ‘middle’ housing market. Therefore, interestingly, if we applied the best percentage uplift figure (i.e. from the ‘lower to middle’ market percentage uplift), to the ‘middle’ 1995 housing market figure, the 2017 figure of £361,822, would have been £400,229 instead – quite a difference you must agree?

 

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Now, I have specifically not mentioned the upper reaches of the Baldock housing market for several reasons.  Firstly, the lower or middle market is where most of the buy to let investment landlords buy their property and where the majority of property transactions take place. Secondly, due to the unique and distinctive nature of Baldock’s up-market property scene (because every property is different and they don’t tend to sell as often as the lower to middle market), it is much more difficult to calculate what changes have occurred to property prices in that part of the Baldock property market – looking at the stats for the up-market Baldock property market from Land Registry, only 24 properties in Baldock (and a 5 mile radius around it) have sold for £1,500,000 or more since 1997.

So, what should every homeowner and buy to let landlord take from the information that there are many micro-property markets? Well, when you realise there isn’t just one Baldock Property Market, but many Baldock “micro-property markets”, you can spot trends and bag yourself some potential bargains. Even in this market, I have spotted a number of bargains over the last few months that I have shared in my Property Blog and to my landlord database, especially in the ‘lower’ and ‘lower/middle’ market. If you want to be kept informed of those buy to let bargains, have a look at my blog http://www.baldockpropertyblog.co.uk  it’s free to do so and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss out – would you?

I would love to know if you have spotted any micro-property markets in Baldock.

Council House Waiting List in Baldock Drops by 30.8% in last 3 years

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Should you buy or rent a house?  Buying your own home can be expensive but could save you money over the years.  Renting a property through a letting agent or private landlord offers less autonomy to live by your own rules, with more flexibility if you need to move.

Yet, there is a third way that many people seem to forget, yet it plays an important role in the housing of Baldock people.  Collectively known as social housing, it is affordable housing, which is let by either North Hertfordshire District Council or a Housing Association to those considered to be in specific need, at rents below those characteristic in the private rental market.

In Baldock, there are 737 social housing households, which represent 16.85% of all the households in Baldock.  There are a further 2,161 families in the North Hertfordshire District Council area on their waiting list, which is similar to the figures in the late 1990’s. The numbers peaked in 2013, when it stood at 3,124 families, so today’s numbers represent a drop of 30.8%.

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Nevertheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean that more families are being supplied with their own council house or Housing Association property.  Six years ago, Westminster gave local authorities the permission to limit entitlement for social housing, quite conspicuously dismissing those that did not have an association or link to the locality.

Interestingly, the rents in the social rented segment have also been growing at a faster rate than they have for private tenants.  In the North Hertfordshire District Council area, the average rent in 1998 for a council house / housing association property was £200.94 a month.  Whilst we have no up to date figures, because of the ‘Large Scale Voluntary Transfer’ of all or most of the local authority’s stock was transferred to a Private Registered Provider sector, so the average rent is no longer applicable.  Therefore, using the average rent increase for England of 108% (England’s average rent being £183.08 a month in 1998 and £381.03 a month today) we can guesstimate an average of approximately £415.

When comparing social housing rents against private rents, the stats don’t go back to the late 1990’s for private renting, so to ensure we compare like for like, we can only go back to 2005.  Over the last 12 years, private rents have increased nationally by a net figure of 19.7%, whilst rents for social housing have increased by 59.1%.

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What does this all mean for the homeowners, landlords and tenants of Baldock?

Rents in the private rental sector in Baldock will increase sharply during the next five years.  Even though the council house waiting list has decreased, the number of new council and housing association properties being built is at a seventy year low.  The government crusade against buy-to-let landlords together with the increased taxation and the banning of tenant fees to agents will restrict the supply of private rental property, which in turn using simple supply and demand economics, will mean private rents will rise.  This makes buy to let investment a good choice of investment again (irrespective of the increased fees and taxation laid at the door of landlords).  It will also mean property values will remain strong and stable as the number of people moving to a new house (and selling their old property) will continue to remain restricted and hence, due to lack of choice and supply, buyers will have to pay decent money for any property they wish to buy.

Interesting times ahead for the Baldock property market!

 

Almost a Quarter of Baldock Properties are Leasehold

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There are 23.36 million properties in England and Wales with 64% being owner occupied and 36% being rented either from a private landlord, local authority or  Housing  Association.

Over nine out of ten of those English and Welsh owner-occupied properties are a whole house or bungalow. Now, most people would assume they would be freehold – however, of those renting nearly half of rental properties, 44% to be precise, lived in other leasehold apartments and flats.

It might be wise to quickly explain the difference between freehold and leasehold. When someone owns the freehold of a property they own it outright, including the land it is built on, whilst with a leasehold property the leaseholder owns the property for the length of their lease agreement. Leaseholders must pay the person who owns land (the freeholder) ground rent and other fees. When the leasehold ends, ownership returns to the freeholder although the leaseholder can extend the lease or they can buy the freeholder out, but there are rules and regulations with regards doing that.

Therefore, it would be safe to assume that houses are freehold and flats are leasehold .. wouldn’t it? Not necessarily! Most houses are freehold but some might be leasehold – usually through shared-ownership schemes – but more and more new homes builders are selling houses on a leasehold as well. The protection of the law afforded to leaseholders who own a flat is massive, but sadly lacking to leasehold houses sold privately.

Looking specifically at the figures for Baldock, at the last count in SG7 there were 5,797 properties. Since 1995, 5,730 properties in SG7 have changed hands and have been sold. Looking further at those 5,730 transactions in SG7 since 1995, using data from Land Registry 22.16% have been leasehold (higher than the national average of 15%).

Baldock 169 Graph

However, I am concerned about a few new homes builders selling new houses (not flats – houses) as leasehold. There has been a growing (yet small) trend for new-build houses to be sold as leasehold in recent years. While not all house builders use this model, those that do maintain it helps make developments financially viable.

The issue comes when builders sell the freehold separately to an investment company without informing the leaseholder  – which they are legally allowed to do without telling the leaseholder. In England and Wales, the “right of first refusal” to buy the freehold is written in law to leaseholders of flats i.e. the freeholder must offer it to the leaseholders of all the flats of the building first), but not leaseholders of houses.

This is the point I am trying to get across. If you are buying a new home and it’s a house (i.e. not a flat) – please check very carefully indeed whether its freehold or leasehold. If it is a leasehold, whilst you do have rights, they are not as strong as for those people buying a leasehold flat. I appreciate I am only talking about a very small percentage of the property market, but potentially this could end up costing thousands of pounds to those affected.

40.1 miles – The average distance people go to escape living in Baldock

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“How far do Baldock people go to move to a new house?”  This was an intriguing question asked by one of my clients the other week.  Readers of my property blog will know I love a challenge, especially when it comes to talking about the Baldock property market.

 For the majority, the response is not very far.  It is much more common for homeowners and tenants in Great Britain to move across town than to the next town or county.  Until now, it’s been hard to say how many homeowners and tenants moved from and to relatively far away to buy or rent their new home.  However, I carried out some research and requested some statistics from the Royal Mail and what came back was fascinating.

Using statistics for the 12 months up to the middle of Autumn 2016, 192 households moved out of Baldock and the average distance was 40.08 miles, the equivalent of moving from Baldock to Brackley as the crow flies.  The greatest distance travelled was 448 miles, that’s almost 17 marathons, when someone moved to Bangor in Northern Ireland.

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Considering there were 177 property sales in SG7 in the year and countless tenant moves, the numbers seem consistent.  Once you find a town you like, you tend to want to settle down and if you do move, you might only move to a different neighbourhood, a better transport links or to be closer to the school you want to get your children into.  The likelihood is however is that you won’t travel far.

I then turned my attention to people moving into Baldock.  Using the same statistics for the 12 months up to the middle of Autumn 2016, 202 households moved into Baldock and the average distance was 28.82 miles, the equivalent of moving from Amersham to Baldock, again as the crow flies.  The greatest distance travelled again was 496 miles, that’s the same as 19 marathons when someone moved from Garlogie in Scotland to Baldock.

I have looked at the data of every person moving into Baldock and these have been plotted on a map of the UK. Looking at the map below, it shows exactly where most people come from, when moving into Baldock.  As you can see, there are a high proportion of people moving from London and from the South West.

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So, what does all this mean for the landlords and homeowners of Baldock?

When an agent markets a property for rent or let, it is vital to know the tenant or property buyer well, that the properties they are letting / selling fit those tenants / buyers, so they almost sell themselves.  These days that means not only knowing how many bedrooms, reception rooms a property offers but the budget buyers and tenants want to spend on a property in that area as well as where they come from.

The estate and lettings industry loves the mantra “location, location, location”.  I say it might be helpful to factor in where and how far people are moving from, so the property can be sold or let more easily.  Many say knowledge is power and whilst I do enjoy writing my blog on the Baldock property market, I also use the information to help my clients buy, let and sell well.  So for example, the information gained from this article will enable my team and I to be more efficient in where to direct our marketing resources to ensure we maximise our client’s properties sale-ability or rent-ability.

For more information on the Baldock property market, call us on 01462 894565 or pop in for a cuppa

6.52 Babies Born for Each New Home Built in the Baldock area

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As more babies are being born to Baldock and North Hertfordshire mothers, I believe this increase will continue to add pressure to the over stretched Baldock property market and materially affect the local property market in the years to come.

On the back of eight years of ever incremental increasing birth rates, a significant 6.52 babies were born for every new home that was built in the North Hertfordshire Council area in 2016.  I believe this has and will continue to exacerbate the Baldock housing shortage, meaning demand for housing, be it to buy or rent, has remained high.  The high birth rate has meant Baldock rents and Baldock property prices have remained resilient, even with the challenges the economy has felt over the last eight years, and they will continue to remain high in the years to come.

This ratio of births to new homes has reach one its highest levels since 1945 (back in the early 1970’s the average was only one and a half births for every household built).  Looking at the local birth rates, the latest figures show we in the North Hertfordshire Council area had an average of 63.8 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44.  Interestingly, the national average is 61.7 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 and for the region its 64.7 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44.

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The number of births from Baldock and North Hertfordshire women between the ages of 20 to 29 are close to the national average, but those between 35 and 44 were much higher.  However overall, the birth rate is still increasing, and when that fact is combined with the ever-increasing life expectancy in the Baldock area, the high levels of net migration into the area over the last 14 years (which I talked about in the previous articles), and the higher predominance of single person households, this can only mean one thing, a huge increase in the need for housing in Baldock.

Again, in a previous article a while back, I said more and more people are having children as tenants because they feel safe in rented accommodation.  Renting is becoming a choice for Baldock people.

The planners and politicians of our local authority, central Government and people as a whole need to recognise that with individuals living longer, people having more children and whilst divorce rates have dropped recently, they are still at a relatively high level (meaning one household becomes two households) demand for property is simply outstripping supply.

The simple fact is more Baldock properties need to be built, be that for buying or renting.

Only 1.1% of the Country is built on by houses.  Now I am not suggesting we build tower blocks in the middle of Ivel Springs or Weston Hills, but the obsession of not building on any green belt land should be carefully re-considered.

Yes, we need to build on brownfield sites first, but there aren’t hundreds of acres of brownfield sites in Baldock, and what brownfield sites there are, building on them can only work with complementary public investment.  Many such sites are contaminated and aren’t financially viable to develop, so unless the Government put their hand in their pocket, they will never be built on.

I am not saying we should crudely go ‘hell for leather’ building on our Green Belt, but we need a new approach to enable some parts of the countryside to be regarded more positively by local authorities, politicians and communities and allow considered and empathetic development.  Society in the UK needs to look at the green belts outside their leisure and visual appeal, and assess how they can help to shape the way we live in the most even-handed way.  Interesting times!

 

Should the 1,677 home owning OAP’s of Baldock be forced to downsize?

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This was a question posed to me on social media a few weeks ago, after my article about our mature members of Baldock society and the fact many retirees feel trapped in their homes.  After working hard for many years and buying a home for themselves and their family, the children have subsequently flown the nest and now they are left to rattle round in a big house.  Many feel trapped in their big homes (hence I dubbed these Baldock home owning mature members of our society, ‘Generation Trapped’).

Should we force OAP Baldock homeowners to downsize?

In the original article, I suggested that we as a society should encourage, through building, tax breaks and social acceptance that it’s a good thing to downsize. But should the Government force OAP’s?

One of the biggest reasons OAP’s move home is health (or lack of it).  Looking at the statistics for Baldock, of the 1,677 homeowners who are 65 years and older, whilst 1,062 of them described themselves in good or very good health, a sizeable 484 home owning OAPs described themselves as in fair health and 131 in bad or very bad health.

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7.81% of Baldock home owning OAP’s are in poor health

If you look at the figures for the whole of North Hertfordshire District Council (not just Baldock), there are only 818 specialist retirement homes that one could buy (if they were in fact for sale) and 956 homes available to rent from the Council and other specialist providers (again, you would be waiting for dead man’s shoes to get your foot in the door) and many older homeowners wouldn’t feel comfortable with the idea of renting a retirement property after enjoying the security of owning their own home for most of their adult lives.

My intuition tells me the majority ‘would be’ Baldock down-sizers could certainly afford to move but are staying put in bigger family homes because they can’t find a suitable smaller property.  The fact is there simply aren’t enough bungalows for the healthy older members of the Baldock population and specialist retirement properties for the ones who aren’t in such good health … we need to build more appropriate houses in Baldock.

The government’s housing White Paper, published recently, could have solved so many problems with the UK housing market, including the issue of homing our ageing population. Instead, it ended up feeling annoyingly ambiguous. Forcing our older generation to move with such measures as a punitive taxation (say a tax on wasted bedrooms for people who are retired) would be the wrong thing to do.  Instead of the stick, maybe the Government could use the carrot tactics and offered tax breaks for down-sizers.  Who knows, but something has to happen?

Come to think about it, isn’t the word ‘downsize’ such an awful word?  I prefer to use the word ‘decent-size’ instead of ‘down-size’ as the other phrase feels like they are lowering themselves as though they are having to downgrade themselves in their retirement (and let’s be frank – no one likes to be downgraded).

The simple fact is we are living longer as a population and constantly growing with increased birth rates and immigration.  What I would say to all the homeowners and property owning public of Baldock is more houses and apartments need to be built in the Baldock area, especially more specialist retirement properties and bungalows.  The government had a golden opportunity with the White Paper and were sadly found lacking.

A message to my Baldock property investor readers, whilst this issue gets sorted in the coming decade(s), maybe seriously consider doing up older bungalows as people will pay handsomely for them be that for sale or even rent?  Just a thought!

 

658,208 People use Baldock Train Station a year……

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How does that affect the Baldock Property Market?

 

It might surprise you that it isn’t always the poshest villages around Baldock or the swankiest Baldock streets where properties sell and let the quickest. Quite often, it’s the ones that have the best transport links. I mean, there is a reason why one of the most popular property programmes on television is called Location, Location, Location!

As an agent in Baldock, I am frequently confronted with queries about the Baldock property market and most days, chiefly from newcomers, I am asked “What is the best part of Baldock and its villages to live in these days?”.  Now the answer is different for each person. A lot depends on the demographics of their family, their age, schooling requirements and interests etc. Nonetheless, one of the principal necessities for most tenants and buyers is ease of access to transport links, including public transport of which the railways are very important.

Official figures recently released state that, in total, 902 people jump on a train each and every day from Baldock Train station. Of those, 336 are season ticket holders. That’s a lot of money being spent when a season ticket, standard class, to London is £5,432 a year.

If up to £1.82m is being spent on rail season tickets each year from Baldock, those commuters must have some impressive jobs and incomes to allow them to afford that season ticket in the first place. That means demand for middle to upper market properties remains strong in Baldock and the surrounding area and so, in turn, these are the type of people who are happy to invest in the Baldock buy to let market, providing homes for the tenants of Baldock.

The bottom line is that property values in Baldock would be much lower, by at least 3% to 4%, if it wasn’t for the proximity of the railway station and the people it serves in the town

This isn’t a flash in the pan. Rail is becoming increasingly important as the costs associated with car travel continue to rise and roads are becoming more and more congested. This has resulted in a huge surge in rail travel.

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Overall usage of the station at Baldock has increased over the last 20 years. In 1997, a total of 229,353 people went through the barriers or connected with another train at the station in that 12-month period. However, in 2016, that figure had risen to 658,208 people using the station (that’s 1,803 people a day).

The juxtaposition of the property and the train station has an important effect on the value and saleability of a Baldock property. It is also significant for tenants – so if you are a Baldock buy to let investor looking for a property – the distance to and from the railway station can be extremely significant.

One of the first things house buyers and tenants do when surfing the web for somewhere to live is find out the proximity of a property to the train station. That is why Rightmove displays the distance to the railway station alongside each and every property on their website.

For more thoughts on the Baldock Property market and for any advice please pop into the office or give us a call on 01462 894565.

What will the General Election do to 5,604 Baldock Homeowners?

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In Baldock, of the 5,604 households, 1,792 homes are owned without a mortgage and 2,034 homes are owned by a mortgage. Many homeowners have made contact me with asking what the General Election will do the Baldock property market?  The best way to tell the future is to look at the past.

I have looked over the last five general elections and analysed in detail what happened to the property market on the lead up to and after each general election. Some very interesting information has come to light.

Of the last five general elections (1997, 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015), the two elections that weren’t certain were the last two (2010 with the collation and 2015 with unexpected Tory majority). Therefore, I wanted to compare what happened in 1997, 2001 and 2005 when Tony Blair was guaranteed to be elected/re-elected versus the last knife edge uncertain votes of 2010 and 2015,  in terms of the number of houses sold and the prices achieved.

Look at the first graph below comparing the number of properties sold and the dates of the general elections:

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It is clear, looking at the number of monthly transactions (the blue line), there is a certain rhythm or seasonality to the housing market. That rhythm/seasonality has never changed since 1995 (seasonality meaning the periodic fluctuations that occur regularly based on a season – i.e. you can see how the number of properties sold dips around Christmas, rises in Spring and Summer and drops again at the end of the year).

To remove that seasonality, I have introduced the red line. The red line is a 12 month ‘moving average’ trend line which enables us to look at the ‘de-seasonalised’ housing transaction numbers, whilst the yellow arrows denote the times of the general elections. It is clear to see that after the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections, there was significant uplift in number of households sold, whilst in 2010 and 2015, there was slight drop in house transactions (i.e. number of properties sold).

I then wanted to consider what happened to property prices. In the graph below, I have used that same 12-month average, housing transactions numbers (in red) and yellow arrows for the dates of the general elections but this time compared that to what happened to property values (pink line):

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It is quite clear none of the general elections had any effect on the property values.  Also, the timescales between the calling of the election and the date itself also means that any property buyer’s indecisiveness and indecision before the election will have less of an impact on the market.

Finally, what does this mean for the landlords of the 767 private rented properties in Baldock? Well, as I have discussed in previous articles (and just as relevant for homeowners as well) property value growth in Baldock will be more subdued in the coming few years for reasons other than the general election. The growth of rents has taken a slight hit in the last few months as there has been a slight over supply of rental property in Baldock, making it imperative that Baldock landlords are realistic with their market rents.  However, in the long term, as the younger generation still choose to rent rather than buy the prospects, even with the changes in taxation, mean investing in buy-to-let still looks a good bet.  If you want to find out more about the Baldock property market or for any advice, please either pop into the office, call us on 01462 894565 or e-mail: lettings@satchells.co.uk.