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As the warmer months approach, many of us are eager to make the most from our beautiful outside spaces.

Entertaining outside is a wonderful option for the warmer evenings that spring and summer welcome. It allows you to enjoy the company of your family and friends, whilst keeping your home immaculate.

We love entertaining outdoors, so we thought we would share our best outdoor entertaining tips with you!

1. Arrange A Relaxed Seating Area

Garden furniture does not need to be arranged in the same formality as you would inside.

Outdoor entertaining should be relaxed and informal, so spread your seating around to reflect this. Add plenty of cushions to your seats to soften the area and encourage your guests to relax.

Benches work really well, especially if you are entertaining for a large number. It encourages people to mingle and can work especially well when laying out food for your guests to enjoy.

2. Create A Mobile Drinks Station

Creating a mobile drinks station outside reduces the risk of muddy shoes being dragged through your home and allows guests to help themselves throughout the evening.

A small table on wheels works perfectly as a mobile drinks station.

Include glasses, cups, and straws, as well as drinks stirrers and napkins. Then simply add a selection of wine, spirits and mixers, and your guests can help themselves. You can also easily create a cool box using a plastic bucket filled with ice, which is excellent for storing beers and keeping them cold all afternoon.

As a great way to make children feel involved, add a smaller drinks cart for them to use. Fill the trolley with soft drinks and fun straws to keep the children entertained.

Just be sure to keep the trolley in the shade and keep the bottle opener nearby!

3. Let the Weather Guide You

Unfortunately, even in the height of our UK summer, perfect weather cannot be guaranteed. So, it is always recommended to hope for the best, but plan for the worst!

Large parasols can work well as sun blockers and help protect from the rain should an afternoon shower occur. Additionally, keep some blankets handy as the sun begins to set and the cold evening chill encroaches on your guests. Providing everyone is comfortable, there is no reason that a change in the weather should spoil your gathering.

4. Consider a Fire Pit

Fire pits are an excellent investment for your garden. As the sun sets and a chill appears in the air, a fire pit is a lovely way to keep your guests warm and entertained.

There are a vast array of options when considering a fire pit. Some homeowners opt for a permanent fixture in the ground, whereas others favour a temporary solution. If you don’t have a huge outside space, the portable version can be great for pulling out when visitors arrive.

Not only is a fire pit amazing for warming up your garden as the weather turns, but it provides the perfect place to toast marshmallows!

5. Consider a Picnic Area

If you have more guests than outdoor seats, consider setting up a picnic area.

Use a range of blankets and pillows to create a stunning picnic space for your guests to enjoy. This style helps embody the laid back, relaxed atmosphere most families want to emulate when entertaining outside.

6. Pre-Prepare Food

When hosting a dinner party inside, your guests will generally gather around the kitchen as you add the finishing touches to the meal. This can be a terrific time to spend with your guests whilst enjoying a drink.

However, when cooking for a garden party, you can become segregated from your guests and will struggle to be the best host that you can be.

Choosing light bites that can be pre-prepared beforehand allows you to spend the most amount of time entertaining your guests outdoors.

Pizzas, salads, and quiches are terrific options – all foods that can be enjoyed warm or cold and can be nibbled throughout the afternoon.

7. Create Soft Lighting

Building the perfect ambience when entertaining in the evening can be particularly tricky.

Bigger, brighter bulbs can make the lighting harsh and uneven, especially if you have a large outdoor space. Whereas opting for a range of softer outdoor lights with smaller bulbs will illuminate the garden. A mixture of small bulbs and fairy lights will be sure to set the right tone for your evening.

However, where alcohol, children or even pets are involved, it is always best to steer clear of candles. Whilst they give an incredible glow, they often offer more danger than reward.

Looking for a home with the perfect outside space for entertaining? Alex Jones are your local property experts for the Ashton Under Lyne and Tameside area. Call us on 01612929223 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to chat with a member of our friendly and experienced team.

When you are a landlord, you should remember that people actually live in your property! It’s more than just bricks and mortar and an investment. It’s ultimately someone’s home.

There lies within property ownership a responsibility to tenants to make sure that they are safe. Indeed, it’s an obligation, and it’s a legal responsibility too.

For years, landlords have had to carry out regular gas safety checks, but new rules now mean that landlords must carry out electrical safety checks too.

Here, we set out what they’re all about.

What’s Changed?

The Government, which says it acknowledges many landlords are responsible owners, said it wants to make sure people are safe when they live in rented accommodation.

So, new guidelines were drafted, and those new rules came into force in June 2020 as the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020.

At the time, the Government said: “This is a major step towards levelling up the private rented sector, making sure it will offer high-quality, safe and secure housing.”

This is good thinking, and a welcome move, particularly when you consider that gas safety checks have been carried out for years now.

What do the new Rules Mean?

Landlords must now comply with the new regulations. They must have “the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every five years”.

A copy of the electrical safety report must be provided to tenants, and also to a local authority (like the council) if requested.

Basically, electrical testing has got to be done by professionals with the correct knowledge and skill.

Does this Apply to all of a Landlord’s Properties?

The new regulations must be adhered to, but there are two dates to be mindful of. The rules apply to new tenancies from July 1, 2020. This means for new tenancies that commenced after July 1, a safety report should already have been carried out. However, landlords have until April 1, 2021, for existing tenancies.

Can Anyone do an Inspection?

No. As the guidelines say, the inspection must be carried out by a competent person who is registered to do so. 

What do the Inspections Cover?

Inspections are not about fridges of kettles or other small appliances or white goods. What they about are the fixed electrical things like plug sockets and lights, and also showers if they are electric and permanently fixed.

Tests will see if everything is safe or if there is a risk of fire or an electric shock. It’s pretty easy to see why an inspection needs to be done – and that is to protect life and property. Depending on what an inspection finds, action may or may not be required. Landlords must then carry out the work within a specified time, and there must be written evidence of this.

What Happens if Electrics Remain Unsafe?

Responsible landlords will want to get any electrical issues fixed and will take action to make good anything highlighted in the inspection report immediately. In the guidelines, if work is not carried out, local councils have the authority to serve a remedial notice on a landlord who must then get the job done. If they don’t, and the council is confident that landlord duties have been breached, it can inform the landlord that it intends to impose a fixed penalty – and this could be up to £30,000.

It makes good business sense to ensure properties are inspected, and it’s a legal duty now too, so we recommend that landlords get started and make sure their properties have been inspected.

Chances are, you’ll have been working with people you trust, but you must ensure they are competent. 

If you are a landlord and have any queries at all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Get in touch with us here at Alex Jones or call 01612929223 and we’ll run through the details with you.

Selling a property can be a very confusing and lengthy process but having a good solicitor or conveyancer will help it to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Here is an easy step by step guide to the whole conveyancing process.

Find a Conveyancer

The conveyancing process formally starts when you’ve accepted an offer on the property.

However, it’s recommended that you have a conveyancer in place before accepting an offer so that they can get the process started immediately and avoid delays.

When it comes to choosing a conveyancer, speak to two or three and get some quotes before deciding who to go with. Speak with our team at Alex Jones as we will be able to recommend too. Alternatively, if you have friends or family who have recently moved, find out who they used and if they were happy with them.

Don’t just go for the cheapest option, it could cause major issues further down the line if they cut corners!

Sign the Conveyancer’s Letter of Engagement and Verify Your Identity

Once you’ve chosen a conveyancer and discussed the fees involved, you’ll need to sign their letter of engagement. It’s only at this point that you commit to using their services. You will also need to verify your identity and address in the form of a passport or driving licence and supply a mortgage statement or utility bill for example.

Complete Questionnaires

Your conveyancer will send you some forms to complete, including a Property Information form and a Fittings & Contents form.

It’s vital that you complete these honestly, as failure to do so could lead to delays later in the process.

The Property Information form is where you tell the buyer about any changes that have been made to the property, such as extensions, solar panels or a loft conversion. You’ll also need to provide any supporting documents you have, so if your double glazing is still under warranty or you have paperwork to show that your boiler has been serviced in the last 12 months, you will need to provide copies.

When it comes to fittings and contents, you don’t need to decide what you’re leaving behind at this point, you can confirm later or leave it open to negotiation. Your conveyancer will be able to advise how to complete the form if you get stuck.

Speak to Your Mortgage Provider

Assuming that you have an outstanding mortgage on your property, you will need to contact your mortgage lender and inform them that you’re in the process of selling. They’ll be able to advise you about paying off your outstanding balance when the sale goes through, or porting your mortgage, which essentially means transferring it to your new property.

Draft Contracts

When your conveyancer has received your completed forms, they’ll draw up a draft contract to send to the buyer’s conveyancer.

The contract will outline which fixtures and fittings are to be included, along with copies of all the supporting documents you’ve provided.

It will also give a date for completion, which is typically around two to four weeks after the exchange of contracts.

The draft contract stage is usually the point where most of the negotiations take place, including the final price of the property.

It’s also at this stage where you’ll need to allow for the buyers to have a surveyor come in and inspect the property. Depending on the answers you’ve given in the questionnaire the buyer may also want other professionals to come in and carry out inspections, such as a plumber or electrician.

They may also request that you pay for the costs of any further inspections or repairs, but you will be under no obligation to agree to this. However, it’s at this point that a buyer may try to renegotiate on the final price of the property to take the extra costs into account.

Exchange of Contracts

Once the buyer is satisfied with the condition of your property and a final agreement has been reached on the price, including all fixtures and fittings, your conveyancer will exchange contracts with the buyer’s conveyancer.

Between Exchange and Completion

At this point both you and the buyer are fully committed to the sale of the property. You’ll receive the buyer’s deposit and if either party pulls out, they’ll open themselves up to legal action.

Completion

This is the day on which you hand over the keys to your property. The completion date is usually around two to four weeks after the date of exchange, but you can ask for this to be extended, or in some cases, shortened.

The date of completion is also the date on which you’ll receive the outstanding balance for the property from the buyer.

If you are planning on selling in the Tameside area soon, why not telephone us on 01612929223. We’ll be happy to advise you and help with your conveyancing needs.

You’ll probably know this already if you are a landlord, but if you don’t yet, you should get to know it – because rental yield is important!

But, what is rental yield and what do you, as a landlord in Ashton Under Lyne need to know about it?

Put simply, rental yield is a way to measure the return on your investment. There is your gross yield and your net yield, which are both important, but take different things into account.

Let’s say you rent out a two-bedroom property in Ashton Under Lyne for £850PCM.

As an example, if you originally purchased the property for £150,000 and you divide the annual rent (£10,200) by the amount you invested (£150,000) and times it by 100, you get a percentage, and that’s the gross yield. In this case 6.8%.

Gross yield is a fairly basic figure but it gives you a good idea about what you’re getting back. However, there is also net yield. This is similar to gross, but you also take into account the additional costs you incur as a landlord, such as insurance, maintenance, solicitors, agents, mortgage, and so on.

This net yield is helpful because you can look at exactly how much it costs you to be a landlord and shows you where you could reduce costs to increase your yield.

Deciding what a good yield is might be different, but anything above about six or seven per cent is good.

Our team at Alex Jones are adept at helping people make the most of being a landlord, and we have come up with a list of five ways landlords can increase their rental yield.

If you need more help or any clarification, simply get in touch with us on 01612929223 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

1. Review Rents Regularly

Here’s a simple way of helping to increase the rental yield. At the appropriate time, look at the rental income on a property – can it be raised to be more in line with the going rate? Make sure you keep within your contractual agreements, though and remember that while a rental increase may be right for you, if a tenant has been with you for many years and has caused you no issues, do you want to upset the applecart?

2. Review Your Outgoings

Let’s look at what you are spending on your property. Do you automatically renew your insurance, or is there a more competitive alternative on the market? If you use a plumber, are their costs expensive, or can someone do the same job for a lower price?

Keep on top of your outgoings, and set reminders to look at alternatives when the time comes. Being a landlord is a business, so treat it as such.

3. Check Your Mortgage Renewal

You may have a buy-to-let mortgage for your property, but is it still the right one? Many different products are being brought to market, so when you’ve come to an appropriate point in your mortgage agreement, have a look around.

Always be mindful about switching. Keep an eye on the media for different products and even though it might not be the right time immediately, make a note so that you can go back to it when you are ready.

4. Invest Wisely

When you are thinking about becoming a landlord, do your homework. Look at where to spend your money, but also at the type of property. Do you want a newer property with less maintenance, or do you want an older place with the risk more could go wrong?

If you have a plan and it works, don’t deviate. If you have a good yield because you’ve got a newer home, stick with the idea when looking at another buy to let.

5. Be a Better Landlord

You’re more likely to get a better yield if you have a great property and great tenants (and yes, both can be achievable). But, can you be a better landlord?

  • Do you add quality fittings?
  • Do you respond quickly to issues?
  • Do you get things fixed promptly?

By being a great landlord, you’re more likely to attract great tenants and be able to justify higher rents.

You assess a house and a tenant – why not assess yourself and see how you could be a better landlord. It makes business sense.

Having the right tenant in your property is more likely to help with yields. If they look after the house, your costs are likely to be lower.

Of course, for total efficiency, we suggest you consider using a lettings agent to help manage your property portfolio. A full expert property management service will help you make the most of being a landlord.

If you need advice about becoming a landlord, or if you are a landlord and need some support, call us on 01612929223 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to chat with a member of our friendly and experienced team.

Who doesn’t love a nice glass of wine? A drop of rose in the summer perhaps, or a crisp, dry white? Maybe a full-bodied red is your choice?

Imagine balmy summer evenings spent in the garden of your new home in Tameside with a tipple, or cosy nights in front of a roaring log fire supping a glass or two – so many of us enjoy wine in moderation as a way of relaxing and socialising with friends in our homes.

But are you the type who chooses the most expensive bottle because you think that price means quality, or do you go for the cheapest bottle because as long as it doesn’t give you a rotten hangover, you don’t really care?

Do you feel that choosing wine is difficult? Well, actually, you may be surprised to learn that understanding good wine doesn’t have to be as tricky as many profess it to be.

Expert Wine Tasting Is Not as Difficult as It Looks

Learning how to taste wine properly will help you understand the flavours you enjoy and support your palette to differentiate between the unique tastes and textures associated with wines.

Those with significant expertise in the area would love us to believe that the tasting process is convoluted. However, that is not the case at all. Four simple steps should be followed to allow you to taste and evaluate your wines, evoking all senses.

Sight

You must take a good look at the wine you are about to enjoy under natural lighting. Assess the wine for its tone and colour, which can be used as an essential benchmark when comparing it to others.

Smell

Smelling the wine prepares your brain for what you are about to taste. Our sense of smell has a significant impact on how our brains process flavour, so this is an essential step in the process. Remember to keep your mouth slightly open whilst smelling to get the most from this step.

Taste

At this point, you finally get that all-important taste of the wine. Take a small sip at a time, allowing the liquid to linger on your tongue slightly before swallowing. This will enable you to consider the taste and texture fully.

Think

This does not mean you have to fill out a complex notebook comparing and contrasting. But instead, consider the flavours you appreciated and how they compare to similar wines that you enjoy.

Always Check the Middle of the List

When dining out in a restaurant, most guests don’t want to appear cheap by ordering the least expensive wine option on the list. This is why the second least expensive wine is always the most popular on any menu!

Additionally, many people panic when handed the decision-making duties and simply opt for the wine at the top or the special that the restaurant is promoting.

Sommeliers and restaurant managers tend to hide their favourites somewhere in the middle or towards the end of the list to reward those who are paying attention.

Wine, and Taste, is Personal

Your taste in wine will be entirely dependent on the diet you have enjoyed throughout your life.

There is considerable pressure, especially when just getting into wine, to choose something profound. Opting for an ‘ordinary’ Chardonnay or Merlot can feel like somewhat of an embarrassment.

However, there is nothing wrong with sticking within the taste range you enjoy. If in doubt, ask the sommelier for any recommendations based on your current favourites.

Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better

To analyse wine price points, you must first understand what makes a wine expensive. There are three key factors to consider.

Age

 Most of us are under the assumption that older wine is always better, but that is not entirely true. For every extra year of ageing, expect to add anything up to another £1 per bottle. However, ageing only has a dramatic impact on red wines. So, if you are partial to a glass of white, it is likely that you are paying above the odds.

Oak

Most of the best wines across the world are aged in oak barrels. This process adds extra flavours and improves texture. For red, the oak ageing process adds deep flavours such as chocolate and nutmeg. For our white wines, the oak often adds vanilla flavours.

Location

Some grapes are simply more expensive, with costly and luxurious vineyards factored into the retail price. Additionally, the import cost will undoubtedly affect what the customer pays.

So, does this mean expensive wine is always better? No. It is entirely context specific.

It is also worth remembering that ‘expensive’ is personal. What some would consider expensive barely breaks the threshold of decent wine for others.

While a £20 bottle is probably going to be a little smoother than one at £4, once you start getting into the professionals’ realm, many people simply cannot tell the difference.

Choose Wines from Different Regions

We are all used to seeing the regulars on the menu and in the supermarket: Australia, Chile, and Italy. However, if you notice a wine from an unusual region, it will likely be one of the best available.

It often means that the venue, supermarket or off-licence has gone out of its way to source the drink, indicating it has something unique to offer.

Dreaming of a glass of wine in your comfortable new home? Call our friendly and knowledgeable team at Alex Jones for advice on buying and selling on 01612929223 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We aren’t just knowledgeable about wine!

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