18Sep

Being involved in the community can bring a sense of belonging, fill your social calendar, and make it easy to find friends. When moving to a new house, it’s important to consider what the community spirit will be like in the new town, village, or borough. How can you find out about the community before you move there? Guild agents share their top tips. 


Check social media 

“We have recently opened a new office in Ingleby Barwick, Stockton on Tees where community spirit is certainly alive and well,” says John Newhouse, Managing Director at Roseberry Newhouse

“We have interacted with the community through social media where the page ‘Ingleby Barwick Noticeboard’ on Facebook is widely used on a daily basis for people to share events, tradesman’s recommendations, sales and community events.” 

In John’s experience, community spirit is alive and well in his area. 

“We recently sponsored and attended the Ingleby Barwick Community Event which was well supported by a variety of stalls and activities and brought the community together. My advice to buyers looking to integrate into a community would be to search Facebook for the town or village and see what community pages are available to join.” 

Mike Coles at Debbie Fortune Estate Agents agrees that social media is a great way to keep up-to-date with local events. “We keep in touch with the local community by following local organisations on Twitter and Facebook. We promote them within our networks by placing links to their events on both our website and by retweeting them on our page.”

Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris says: “Facebook and Twitter are fantastic sources of information about a community. Search the name of the village, town or area and you will find numerous community groups operating locally. 

“Checking the group’s feed and events to see how active and how well supported the group is, what events are happening and how you can get involved. All of this information will help provide a feel for the community spirit in the area.”



Look for a local magazine 

The existence of a local magazine run by local people is a sign that there is a lot going on in the area, that people are so proud of where they live, and that they want to shout about it. 

“In our area, there is a brilliant online magazine and news page which keeps our community up-to-date with any upcoming events,” says Gina Burbidge from Royston Lund. “If you are looking to buy in an area with good community spirit, our recommendation would be to look for a local online magazine stating information and events within the community.

“West Bridgford is a perfect example of great community spirit. We are a small town, three miles away from Nottingham City Centre. There is a huge amount to offer including both primary and secondary schooling and a great variety of shops, restaurants and cafés.”


Check the local newspaper

“These are great sources of community information, as newspapers include adverts for upcoming events and stories on recent events,” says Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris. “Papers and magazines can often be obtained at local shops, community centres or the local library.”


Go to libraries and community centres

“Visiting local community centres, council offices, sports clubs, church halls, cafés, and local shops will help provide a sense of the community,” says Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris. “Many of these will have notice boards giving information on local community groups and events. They may have staff who know the area, and even live in it, who will often be happy to provide information.”


This is a great way to find out about the area before making an offer on a property. It’s even something to do after going to a viewing. 

“Here in Buckingham, The Old Gaol, community centre, and the library all offer information on what is on and when. There is also a weekly community lunch on a ‘free to all’ basis, knit and natter, children’s activities and online courses are available at Buckingham Library,” says Chris Barrell from Apple Homes

Josh Smith from Jan Forster Estates said: “It is worth popping into local libraries or community centres. These will often have notice boards outlining any upcoming events in the area. If you have time, it's a good idea to try to go to one of the events before moving. This will give you an idea of how the community interacts and will provide an opportunity to get to know your potential new neighbours.”


Talk to people who live nearby 

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to get out in the area and talk to the locals. If they are happy to stop and help a stranger, it’s a sign that the community is open, friendly and trusting. 

“When you visit the area, meet the people. Whether you are visiting an area for viewings, or simply to get to know it, take the time to speak to the locals. Ultimately, they are the people that make up the local community and could be your neighbours one day,” says Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris

Fancy a stroll? “Local parks are a must,” advises Josh Smith from Jan Forster Estates. “Wandering around a park, you are likely to bump into a wide range of local people. From dog walkers to joggers to mums with prams, this is a great place to feel out the community spirit of an area.”



Get in touch with your local estate agent

Debbie Fortune Estate Agents are sure to keep their customers up-to-date with local goings on. “We keep buyers in touch with what’s going on by sending out a newsletter to them via email, complete with a diary of events that we will be attending to do fundraising for the local community,” said Mike. 

Chris Barrell from Apple Homes suggests asking questions of your local agent when looking at properties to buy. 

“Once you have finished your viewings, or maybe even before you have booked a viewing, call into our office and speak to me or one of the team. As an independent estate agent, we have all lived and worked in the area for a good number of years. We love our town and all that it has to offer, we know the area well and we love being involved with our local community”.  

Josh Smith from Jan Forster Estates agrees. “As a starting point, we would always recommend speaking to your local Guild agent. We are all local people who know and love our areas, so we will be able to guide you throughout the buying process.”

13Sep

Debbie Fortune, Managing Director of award-winning Debbie Fortune Estate Agents was delighted to present a cheque to the organiser of Trendlewood Community Festival Nik Gardner for funds raised for 'Hope for Life Katanga’ - a charity started by Mark and Meg Walters who both grew up in Nailsea, which brings the possibility of education to children in a deprived area of Uganda.

The Festival, held at the Golden Valley School Fields in Nailsea, featured an incredibly eclectic mix of cars from the 1920s to the 2010s, and from everyday family cars to exotic sports machines, and Debbie’s team from Backwell attended with Wallace, their 1920s Austin 7 Chummy vintage car, stuffed full of balloons, together with a 1920's Alvis front wheel drive sports racer named “Ratty”, and “Little Al”, a 1950's Alvis TB14.

The event was a huge success with over 1,500 attending in beautiful hot sunshine. Nik commented, “I heard so many complimentary comments from festival goers about the brilliant range of cars on display and that is down to all of you bringing your cars along for over 1,500 people to enjoy. Thank you again, and we hope to sign you up for two years’ time!”

The winner of Wallace’s Guess the Balloons competition was Mr Zai Esmail, pictured receiving his Amazon Fire Tablet from Joseph Down, manager of the Backwell office.

Mr Esmail is an engineer who has relocated from Nottingham with his family to work on the Hinkley Point project in Somerset and revealed that EDF were making inroads to move approximately 6,000 people into the area to work on the project, ultimately chartering planes from Bristol International to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris twice a day.

Zia explained that he used his experience as an engineer to correctly guess the number of balloons in Wallace!

13Sep

WANTED!

CUSTOMER SERVICES APPRENTICE

For our new Backwell office

to start as soon as possible, to assist in our sales and lettings departments. Send your CV to lisachaplin@debbiefortune.co.uk or call Lisa on 01275 406870 for more details.


11Sep

“It's very interesting”, says Debbie Fortune, Managing Director of the award-winning local firm, Debbie Fortune Estate Agents. “It's something we ask in our feedback forms wherever we can, after all, our customers are the most important part of our business, and we need to know what they expect from us if we are to deliver in everything we do.”

Research revealed recently by the Homeowners Alliance looks at the reasons people choose the agents they do, and how agents can be aware of the things that most put off potential customers about particular agents.in their market research they asked over 1,000 people who have used an estate agent, what their biggest “turn-offs” were when choosing an agent. Apart from the obvious ones, like being pushy, flashy, scruffy or late, it was really revealing to see that over 50% of the 1,000 plus individuals questioned were put off by estate agents who were inexperienced or who lacked local knowledge.

“This is music to my ears”, comments Debbie, “and there is really no excuse for any company, whatever their business, to employ a team of people who are then 'let loose' on the unsuspecting public without the tools or the training to do the job properly. This is particularly relevant when we all know that buying or selling a home can be very stressful, and is almost certainly the largest financial transaction we will ever make in our lives. So doesn't it make sense to deal with an estate agent who is either experienced through longevity or if lacking the years of groundwork, is well trained and knowledgeable, not only about the properties they represent but also the intricacies of the housing industry, be it sales or lettings.

“It's very interesting”, says Debbie Fortune, managing director of the award-winning local firm, Debbie Fortune Estate Agents, “and it's something we ask in our feedback forms wherever we can, after all, our customers are the most important part of our business, and we need to know what they expect from us if we are to deliver in everything we do.”

“Thankfully as a company, I feel we are already ahead of the game,”, she adds. “Bearing in mind our phenomenal growth over the last nine years, we would have laid ourselves open to lots of criticism if we had not embarked on a comprehensive and structured training program for all of our team, that's full-time, part-time, junior or senior! It is the only way to empower them to do the job properly and avoid the sort of criticism levied in this research.”

Debbie Fortune Estate Agents have three offices based in the area south of Bristol, at Backwell, Chew Magna, and Wrington, and they now have over 30 local staff covering the sale and rental of property.

Debbie continues: “All of our staff are members of the Guild of Property Professionals, and all have, or will have, completed the Guild's advanced training course. In fact, our new cohort of staff start their advanced training later this month, under the watchful eye of our training director, Joanna Tiley, and she and all of our senior managers also take part in regular external management training.

“Also let's not forget our apprentices, adds Debbie, “in addition to their heavy college workload, they are also expected to complete our in-house training courses and become advanced Guild members!

“All of this takes a huge commitment from everyone and their support and enthusiasm for my vision for the company are tremendously exciting and heart-warming.

“Thankfully we get few complaints, but we do get some, so once again we learn from them, in the same way, we will learn from this research from Homeowners Alliance.”

If you would like to know more about this award-winning company and its ethos, contact Debbie Fortune Estate Agents on 01275 406880 (Backwell office); 01275 333888 (Chew Magna); or 01934 862370 (Wrington).

Alternatively, you can visit our website at www.debbiefortune.co.uk; or email Backwell on backwell@debbiefortune.co.uk; Chew Magna on chewsales@debbiefortune.co.uk; or Wrington on salesadmin@debbiefortune.co.uk.

Our Lettings Department is available by phoning 01275 406870 or emailing lettings@debbiefortune.co.uk.



11Sep

Viewing a property is exciting as you judge if it could be a suitable home. It is easy to get caught in a whirlwind as you walk from room to room, without taking it all in properly. It might tick some of your boxes, but does that make it the perfect home for you? Guild agents share their tips to get the most out of a property viewing. 


Assess the building condition 

Even if there are enough bedrooms and the layout works for you, there are other signs to consider first. Is the building safe and are there warning signs? 

“When considering the building, it's a good idea to find out how old the building is, whether there has been any maintenance done recently and whether there are any associated charges that you need to be aware of,” said Josh Smith from Jan Forster Estates. “You should also look out for any potential costs such as old boilers, leaky roofs, and possibly damp. Don't let these things put you off, but be sure to bear them in mind during your negotiations.”

Steve Barron from Drivers & Norris says: “Watch out for diagonal cracks. They suggest some movement or structural issue. Whilst that doesn’t necessarily mean you should dismiss the property, it is definitely worth having it checked out early on. Generally speaking, horizontal or straight vertical cracks are not as much of an issue but it’s always wise to have the property properly surveyed.”

Don’t forget to check for damp, too. “Always make sure that the property has adequate ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom. Potential damp issues can arise if it is not well ventilated.” 

Laura Scott from Cooke & Co agrees and warns of the dangers of not looking in certain rooms. “If for any reason while on a viewing you are unable to view inside a room or a space of interest, make sure you ask as to why it is off limits for your viewing. If you see areas of concern, ask about any investigations which might have taken place already so you can be confident in proceeding. For instance, if you spot an area which appears to be damp, ask if they have had work carried out with guarantees available or if a report with the cost of repair is available to be seen in advance of any offers being made.”

Remember to look at the exterior condition of the property as well. Gina Burbidge from Royston & Lund says: “Particularly in an older property, try and have a good walk around the outside looking at the brickwork for any cracking and if possible, the roof for any slipped tiles.”

Structural integrity is always a key consideration, but it could be worth getting a professional survey before coming to any conclusions of your own. 

“Structural movement can cause problems but can also be difficult to spot. There is a big difference between settlement (long standing movement) and progressive movement, however good agents can always offer sensible advice on this or provide details of RICS surveyors.

“Don’t necessarily be put off by minor issues on a survey. Problems are rarely insurmountable and sometimes the reality is never as bad as first feared.” 



Spend time looking at the local area 

It’s tempting to drive to the property, look around, and leave again, but our agents suggest that you should spend more time in the area. 

Josh Smith from Jan Forster Estates says: “I always like to take a wander around the local area before viewing a property; sometimes it's worth doing this before booking the viewing. Look out for things like supermarkets, parks and green areas, and local schools (even if you don't have children), as all of these things can affect the property price.”

Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris advises his clients to do the same. “On a viewing, potential buyers should take the time to look around outside the property. This provides the opportunity to get a ‘feel’ for the neighbourhood. Are neighbouring properties well-kept or uncared for? This will help them decide whether this is an area in which they feel they can live.”


Multiple visits

As well as looking at the area, it is worth visiting multiple times. 

Jared Thomas from Emsleys Estate Agents recommends a drive-by viewing beforehand. “You may also wish to consider driving past the property you are interested in before booking a viewing if you live within a reasonable distance. This will help to quickly eliminate any unsuitable properties from your search. To find out more about an area, it is worth visiting at different times throughout the week – you may get a different impression on a Saturday evening compared with a Wednesday afternoon.”

Gina Burbidge from Royston & Lund says: “Make sure you view the property more than once and ideally at different times of the day. As well as viewing the property itself, make sure you have a good walk around the general area to get an understanding of traffic and parking. Try and take someone with you; it’s always great to have someone to bounce ideas off and ask for a second opinion.”



Make a wish list to check off

Are you willing to compromise? Taking a checklist to a viewing can help to decide if the property is for you. 

Zoe Hayle from Marshalls says: “When you start your search for your perfect home, you usually have a wishlist. Invariably something has to give as budget and wishes collide and a compromise has to be made.”

Having a clear idea of what your needs are will making finding a property a lot easier, says Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris. “It is important for each buyer to have a clear understanding of their requirements so that they can look at how well the property satisfies these requirements. A checklist can be a useful tool to help with this and will also help with comparing the merits of different properties after multiple viewings when the memory can blur.” 

As well as a wish list, include a checklist of questions to ask the estate agent who is showing the property. Josh Smith from Jan Forster says: “When viewing a property, it's a good idea to prepare yourself with a list of questions for the agent and owner. Make sure to write your questions down as it's very easy to get caught up in the viewing and forget them. I would say there are three main categories to consider when viewing; the building itself, the services to the building, and the local area and amenities.”

Lynda Lewis Davies from Town & Country has some ideas for the best questions to ask. “The first question a viewer should be asking is; how will I commute to work, are there good road links, and is public transport frequent? 

Will my furniture fit?

Do I need new window dressings?

Can I live with the colour scheme?

Is the garden big enough, or small enough?

What are the running costs?

Are the electrics up to date including the fuse board?

Has the central heating system been serviced regularly and are there certificates to show this?

Do all the doors and windows operate correctly and have appropriate locking mechanisms?

If the property has solar panels, has the roof been leased?”


Spend a lot of time looking around the property

It’s a good idea to take a slower pace and even have a sit-down. “One thing that very few people seem to do when viewing a property (whether for sale or rent), but everybody should try to do, is to take a moment to sit down,” says Martin Haigh of Haigh & Sons Estate Agents

“How else are you going to find out what the place would really be like to live in? Few people spend their entire lives at home walking around the property but we do tend to spend a lot of time sitting down: watching TV, reading a book, eating or just plain relaxing. Rather than admiring the view out of the window from a standing position, what can you see when you're seated? Is the window sill so high that all you can see is sky? Would you be happy with that?

“Once you're sitting quietly, what can you hear? Traffic, trains, the neighbours, or birds tweeting and a babbling brook?”


Are you thinking of moving house? Contact us at the award-winning Debbie Fortune Estate Agents

04Sep

Many villagers turned out in force to support the Congresbury village coffee morning on Thursday 31st August, a pop up coffee shop welcomed residents of all ages with a homemade cake sale and activities for the children. The morning also saw the Grand Village Draw at midday, with village sponsor, Debbie Fortune of local award-winning company, Debbie Fortune Estate Agents doing the honours in the draw, and Red Letter Day experience vouchers for two people were awarded to the lucky winners, with money raised going towards the funds to support the Development Trust, a community organisation leading the project to provide a new village hall/community centre facility the village has been talking about for over 18 years.

Existing community facilities in the village include the Recreation Club, Old School Rooms and Memorial Hall. These are all relatively small, underused and considered by many villagers as not fit for purpose. The significant maintenance costs of the Memorial Hall and Old School rooms raise a question mark over their financial viability in their current form.

With particular consideration for the site, the existing Recreation Club was built in 1963 with a projected useful life of 25 years. The external fabric of the building is now rotting away and temporary repairs are ongoing to slow down the process. Additionally, the tennis club; a temporary wooden pavilion, is also at the end of its useful life. Following the 2007 Parish Plan Survey the Community Report  detailed a vision for the village community buildings: To have modern facilities in the village buildings that promote multiple use by organisations, villagers both young and old, local businesses and service providers throughout every day and reduce the need for villagers to go outside the village for their recreation.

Debbie said: “Everyone has worked so hard selling tickets, even joining us on our stand at the North Somerset Show and we are delighted that the competition has been such a success and has helped to swell the coffers towards this fantastic project. I hope everyone enjoys their days out, courtesy of the kind residents of Congresbury and North Somerset!

“We are also chuffed to bits”, she added: “Our pledge to donate 10% of the fee we earn from Congresbury property sales in 2017 has already raised thousands of pounds and we are all doing our best to raise a record amount for the village hall project by the end of the year.”



23Aug

Tim Ledbury from the North Somerset Agricultural Society was presented with a cheque for £230, from Jo Woolley, director, for funds raised by our Guess the Balloons at the North Somerset Show earlier in the summer.

We again won, for the third time in a row, first prize for Best Stand in Show. Debbie Fortune was delighted to accept the award on behalf of her team and explained the theme of her exhibit and the drive required to put on an award-winning display year after year!

“Our theme this year was ‘Home from Home’, says Debbie; “so myself, my husband and members of our team spent most of Sunday loading up a van with carpets, lamps, table and chairs, wall hangings and our own special bunting. Then come the finishing touches... lace tablecloths, vintage toys and ornaments, potted plants and flowers and the obligatory complimentary drinks, snacks, pens and bags for life.

“We also had a 'teddy bears picnic' which drew the children and our fairground organ which had our guests dancing on the grass at 8 am in the morning, to welcome spring on May Day!

“It takes about six hours to put up and dress the stand... but I'm very pleased to say it comes down much more quickly!'

Tim organises the North Somerset Show every year, which raises money for the North Somerset Agricultural Society, formed out of the North Somerset Ploughing Society in 1840 by a small group of farmers. Its sole purpose was to further agricultural development by communicating agricultural issues and providing a showpiece to the local, general public.  To this day these aims still ring true.

In 2011 the society started Countryside Day, a bi-annual event aimed at educating primary school children, from North Somerset and Bristol, about agriculture, the journey their food takes from field to plate and rural crafts.

22Aug

We sponsored a hole for Nailsea Rotary Club’s Golf Day, who were raising funds for Children’s Hospice South West and the Special Care Baby Unit at St Michael’s, Bristol; and a small sum will go to local Rotary charities.

The event, which took place in fine weather, is estimated to have raised well over £4,500.

“We thank you very much for your sponsorship of the golf last Friday,” said Mr Graham Hunt, one of the organisers.

The attached picture shows a group of the golfers at the tee of the whole we sponsored.

16Aug


We had a super afternoon yesterday at our annual staff family barbecue, kindly hosted by Debbie and Mark...  fortunately the rain held off, so the kids and dogs were all able to run around to their hearts’ content, whilst the adults enjoyed the lovely food, wine and a bit of croquet on the lawn!

Dogs chasing each other on the lawn

 

07Aug

Read the latest Guild advice when asking us about a buy to let property