THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, Property expert
HOUSE “flipping” has reached a 12-year high, with one in every 40 homes bought being sold again within 12 months to try to make a quick profit.
Research from estate agent Hamptons International using Land Registry data shows Burnley is the UK’s flipping capital, with one in 12 given the treatment this year.
While flipping is hard work, it can make you a good profit if you get it right. Here property experts at myjobquote.co.uk share their tips on it.
1) Understand your market: Before buying a property to flip, think about who you will sell to and what the property could offer a buyer, once improved.
Research the competition locally and how other homes are priced. Then you can make faster, more cost-effective renovation decisions.
2) Keep costs under control: Find a property you feel you can add value to with minor refurbishment rather than major structural works.
It’s faster, so you get your money out quicker, and it’s less likely to see your budget spiral out of control.
3) Declutter and decorate: Removing unsavoury items, redecorating and reflooring will take away nasty smells and freshen the whole home.
4) Do some home staging: On average, home- staged properties – ones that are “dressed” like show homes – sell for a higher price and four times faster. Research and dress a property based on what will attract the widest target audience.
5) Promote the property’s best bits: Ensure all rooms and features look beautiful and enticing, to attract potential buyers. Insist on professional photography from your estate agent.
6) Factor in the tax: As well as builders’ costs, you’ll need to pay for conveyancing, removals for staging items such as beds and sofas, possible stamp duty and tax on any profit made. Ensure the money you make leaves you with a profit after these.
Buy of the week
ENJOY a rural retreat just a stroll away from the Good Pub Guide’s Country Pub of the Year 2020.
This spacious three-bed bungalow is in the village of Walton, not far from award-winning local The Harp in Old Radnor, Powys.
It’s on the market for £250,000. See zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/52704758
Careful when you buy
DECEMBER is the worst month to complete on a new-build property, research reveals.
Pads completed this month have an average of 208 snagging defects compared to 157 for the rest of the year.
Harry Yates of property inspection site HouseScan, which carried out the study said: “It’s not just the sprouts that could be leaving a bad taste in the mouths of homebuyers this Christmas.”
Deal of the week
GRAB a slice of style. This stunning cake stand will make a great Christmas table centrepiece too.
It was £49.99 but has been reduced to £25.99 at wayfair.co.uk.
Judge Rinder, legal expert
Q) MY sister is seriously ill and, as her executor, she asked me to locate her will. I did so but it still bears her old address, which she left 23 years ago. Is the will valid?
Because she is in hospital, there is no chance of her being able to see a solicitor.
In any event, she is convinced it won’t be a problem when the time comes.
Would the will still be valid if I were to type out the details but with current addresses, then get her to sign it with two witnesses in the usual way? Sandy, Stafford
A) Your sister should update her will to reflect her change of address. If she doesn’t, or is unable to, this won’t necessarily invalidate her will but it is the wise course of action.
I would advise you in the strongest possible terms that you do not go through with what you suggest and write out the same will over again.
This is unnecessary and could cause serious problems.
You only need add a codicil (a supplementary document) to the existing will, setting out the change of address.
This must be signed by your sister and witnessed by two people (they don’t have to be the same people who signed the original will).
If you can, I suggest showing this codicil to a legally qualified person to make sure you have done everything properly.
‘He pressured me’
Q) IN September, a man came to give me a quote for fitting new kitchen doors and worktops.
He pressured me into paying a deposit of £1,460 so they could get started on the doors.
A week later, a surveyor came and presented me with a bill for a further £1,460, plus £480 for the fitters.
I decided it was too expensive and cancelled but the company has refused a refund, saying they had started making the doors.
I’m a pensioner and worried sick. Florence, Swansea
A) If you had ordered doors from a shop, you would be entitled to cancel your contract within 14 days.
This case is more tricky because the doors are bespoke.
Write a letter to the head of the company explaining how devastating this has been to you.
I would also advise you to get an appointment at Citizens Advice.
Q) WHEN the country first went into lockdown, in March, I was employed on a zero-hours contract at a ladies’ fashion shop.
My manager told me zero-hours workers were not entitled to any furlough money and that I would just get holiday pay. I now believe this is incorrect.
Then, at the end of May, my manager called to say she had to let me go, with no reason given.
I knew by that point I was entitled to furlough, so I phoned and wrote to the head office multiple times. But I didn’t get any response.
Eventually I spoke to a woman at the head office who agreed I should have received furlough pay.
She said she would speak to payroll then email me, but she never did.
I don’t know what to do. I have received no holiday pay, nor a P45, nor any explanation of why I didn’t get furlough money – or even why I was let go. What can I do? Helen, Gloucester
A) Your employer has behaved disgracefully. You were perfectly right that you were entitled to be offered furlough.
The amount owed to you would be based on last year’s earnings (you would get 80 per cent of that). In addition to this, when your manager decided to cancel your contract without giving you notice, she almost certainly breached your employment agreement (check the document).
It might be that this firm is no longer in business – in which case, I am afraid to say, there is little you can do.
If the company is still operating, however, write to the managing director at once explaining what has happened and be clear that you will be bringing legal action unless they settle this matter and pay you what you are owed.
Get an appointment with Citizens Advice, as a well-crafted legal letter will help in this case.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) I WAS fortunate to win a £250 voucher from Sun Savers for cottages.com.
I used it as a deposit to book a cottage but the booking was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Three months ago, cottages.com confirmed I’d get a refund within three working days.
But there has been no sign of the money and I have lost count of the emails and letters I have sent.
I have not had any acknowledgement to these and I am at my wits’ end.
I find I am not alone in this. There are apparently hundreds of people who can’t get in contact with cottages.com or its sister company Hoseasons. Carol, Co Durham
A) Vacation Rentals, which operates sites including cottages.com and Hoseasons, was reported to the Government back in May because of the difficulty customers were having in getting refunds.
The firm has since vastly improved, but you were still having problems getting hold of anyone there.
And you weren’t alone, as you know. Others have reported issues to me about getting through on the phone.
That said, customers of many different travel companies are still struggling to make contact with their respective companies, nine long months after this crisis began.
I managed to make your case heard and I am pleased to say I got your refund processed without any further holdups, so your holiday won through The Sun should be back on soon.
Q) I WAS a loyal Virgin Media customer for 25 years but just after renewing my contract, I decided to leave for a better deal.
I exercised my right to cancel within 14 days but after five days of trying, I couldn’t get through. Virgin sent me a £240 late-cancellation fee.
A month after my contract ended, I got another £65 bill. After two hours on the phone, Virgin said I hadn’t told it of cancelling so it was imposing yet more charges of £199.
Virgin ignores everything I say and I’m so frustrated – imagine a fee of £240 for early cancellation, then Virgin telling me I didn’t cancel so I have to pay more! Derek, Wolverhampton
A) I am mystified as to why Virgin Media thought fees totalling more than £500 would be justifiable under ANY circumstances.
This was particularly shocking given you had been a loyal customer for 25 years and did all you could to cancel within the 14-day cooling-off period.
I asked Virgin to take a serious look at its role here and I managed to get the unfair penalty scrapped – although Virgin still claimed this was a “goodwill gesture”.
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A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We apologise to Mr Brownhill for the difficulty he had while trying to contact us to close his broadband account.
We can confirm his request has now been actioned and we have removed any associated early disconnection fees as a gesture of goodwill.”
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