Day in the life of an agent

Redstones Financial Services : It’s Official

At Redstones we are continually seeking new and innovative ways of adding value to our brand which will benefit both our customers and our franchisees.  We are therefore delighted to announce the official launch of our new Finance Division which will do just that.

Redstones Financial

Redstones Financial

We are aware from talking to our customers that reliable, unbiased financial advice is hard to come by in the property sales and residential lettings market.  Redstones Financial Services now offers our clients the convenience of expert independent advice provided by professional and friendly staff under the umbrella of the Redstones brand.

Our new division provides financial services and independent advice to our clients for a range of financial products including:-

  • Home mortgages finance
  • Buy-to-let property finance
  • Commercial finance
  • Property insurance
  • Business insurance
  • Motor/travel insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Pensions and investments
  • Tax planning

Why Choose Redstones Financial Services?

We generally find that our clients’ top three concerns when considering a financial services provider are:-

  • Cost
  • Quality of financial product
  • Quality of service

Redstones Financial Services offers you the following assurances:-

  • We listen : At Redstones Financial Services we promise to provide our customers with the most appropriate, cost-effective products to match their needs. We won’t compromise on quality or on the levels of protection you need.
  • Family run : As an expanding family run business, Redstones Financial Services is committed to low overheads to ensure that our prices are among the cheapest available.
  • Quality : We work closely with Simply Biz to ensure that we can access the whole market so you can be confident we are offering the appropriate level of protection to meet your needs.
  • First class service : With Redstones Financial Services, you can be assured of attentive, qualified staff who are ready to listen to your requirements and provide you with a solution that suits you, the customer.
  • No call centre : As you would expect with Redstones, you will deal directly with friendly and experienced staff, rather than experiencing the inconvenience and frustration of being directed to a call centre.

Benefits to Our Franchisees

The launch of Redstones Financial Services expands the advantages offered when investing in a franchise with Redstones compared to other lettings agency franchises, in addition the following benefits:-

Low start-up costs : The total investment required to launch a Redstones franchise is between £20-25,000, offering a cost-effective route to entry into a competitive market.  Our franchise model assumes the launch of your Redstones franchise from a serviced office, rather than costly high street premises. This way, overheads are kept to a minimum during the first crucial year of your business.

Larger than average territories : Our unique mapping means that our territories are larger than those generally on offer by other lettings agency franchises, encompassing c250,000 population, or approximately 100,000 chimney pots. This gives every franchise an equal opportunity to build a lucrative and successful business within the Redstones network.

Outstanding customer service : Redstones is recognised as an ethical brand with an outstanding reputation for customer service in a sector that often receives a bad press.  With our Switch Agents facility, our Platinum Total Care Service and now with the launch of Redstones Financial Services, our franchisees are guaranteed a comprehensive package to set them apart in the market.

For more information on Redstones Financial Services or on what it takes to succeed as a Redstones franchisee, contact us today.

HMRC Cracks Down On Landlords

As a landlord of one or more properties from which you receive rental income, you may not yet be aware of a campaign launched by HMRC in recent months.  The Let Property Campaign is targeted at individual landlords (this excludes companies or trusts) who privately rent out property and who may not be paying the appropriate amount of tax on their rental income.

The campaign forms the focal point of HMRC’s attempt to recoup what it believes may amount to around £500 million of unpaid tax every year.

Landlords who may not have declared all of their income have the opportunity to rectify the situation by making a ‘voluntary disclosure’.  Failure to do so may result in a criminal prosecution.

Over the next few months, HMRC is expected to write to around 40,000 landlords it believes may not have paid the correct amount of tax, or declared their total income received from rental properties.  Once contacted, landlords have only 30 days to respond by providing a breakdown of their income and outgoings to prevent further action being taken against them.

In essence, landlords must tidy up their tax affairs, or face the consequences.

According to official figures, fewer than 500,000 individuals are registered as owning second properties, although HMRC estimates the actual figure at closer to 1.5 million. Furthermore, it believes that tens of thousands of landlords pay little or no tax on income received from rental properties. The campaign is also focused on landlords who may have filed inaccurate self-assessment tax returns.

As the government steps up the pressure as part of its ongoing campaign targeting property owners what can you, as a landlord, do to ensure you are meeting your legal obligations?

Get in touch with the Inland Revenue : Their website allows you to complete a notification form together with a disclosure form which allows landlords up to three months to repay any outstanding tax.  Landlords requiring more time are advised to get in touch with HMRC before the end of the three month period.

Calculate what you owe : HMRC’s website provides a calculator to help you work out how much tax you owe, including a separate section for any property owners who may owe more than five years of unpaid tax.

Take an e-learning course : Provided by HMRC, this online course helps landlords to understand about the different types of property income, taxes and requirements for detailed record keeping.

Seek financial advice : If in doubt, contact a professional to ensure accuracy in your self-assessment declaration.

Rent your property through Redstones : As part of our managed service, we provide our landlords with a detailed self-assessment tax report which means you don’t have to worry about undeclared income or inaccurate tax returns. This gives our clients who choose this service complete peace of mind. It’s yet another reason to rent your property through Redstones.

If you suspect you may have failed to declare the correct amount of income on your rental properties, it is important to take appropriate action to avoid facing a significant fine or the possibility of a criminal prosecution.

To prevent problems with future rental income, contact Redstones today for more information on our property management services.

Redstones Sets The Standards

We frequently offer advice in these blogs on the types of questions to ask when investing in a franchise.

At Redstones, we believe there are two more vital questions to ask when considering which franchise to invest your hard earned cash in.

  • Does the franchisor operate a flagship company owned branch which sets the standards for the franchise network?
  • Does the franchisor demonstrate a commitment to customer service and its franchisees through continual investment in the brand and in staff training?

One of the ways in which we measure this is through feedback from our customers. We’re therefore delighted to share the following testimonial recently received from one of clients, Kulvinder Singh Showker, for Steve Sutton, a key member of our head office sales team:-

Working with Redstones has been nothing less than excellent right the way through. Steve is a true ambassador for your company. Let’s be honest, estate agents and sales people on the whole don’t have the best reputations!!

Steve made everything so simple and easy and was honest and transparent from the word go.

I first met Steve several years ago when I was looking for a tenant for my property. At that time, Steve was working in the lettings department. He was desperate to rent my property out and came across as very professional. On this particular occasion I decided to rent privately to someone from work but told Steve that when this tenant left I would come to him for a new tenant.

After a couple of years Steve contacted me informing me that he was now sales manager  at Redstones. He asked if I would consider selling my property as Redstones had just achieved a record number of sales.

I was in two minds but left the conversation there.

Now several months later I contacted Steve and he came round, took pictures,agreed a price and away we went.

All along I was given fantastic advice by Steve and he was true to his word all the way through. Steve found me a cash buyer and got the sale through in 3 weeks!!!!!!!!

To summarise, Steve is a true asset to your business. Once again thanks Steve!’

Steve’s professionalism, work ethic and commitment to Redstones and our clients epitomises the ethos that prevails throughout out network.  It also reflects our determination to lead by example for our franchise network.

All franchisees investing in a Redstones lettings agency can expect to be part of a brand that is commited to the highest standards of customer service which is also reflected in the following:-

Training : Our comprehensive training programme takes our franchisees through every single aspect of what it takes to run a business.

Support on launch : Redstones experienced support team are always on site as you launch your franchise business. We also accompany our franchisees to their initial client meetings when requested, to provide you with the maximum opportunity to win your first business.

Ongoing training : Your success is our success. We are available around the clock to enable you to overcome any obstacles in getting your franchise business off to a flying start and keeping it there.

Unique marketing : Our Switch Agents facility, coupled with our Platinum Total Care Service, reiterates our commitment to our clients, as well as our determination to ensure Redstones stands out from the crowd.

To find out more about life as a Redstones franchisee and the ongoing investment we make in our brand and our network, contact us today.

Investing In A Lettings Agency Franchise? 7 Questions You Must Ask

Booming property sales and a thriving private lettings market are attracting new businesses into the sector on a regular basis, some of which are franchisors. While most franchisors enter the market through a tried and tested route, some sadly regard it as an easy way to make money by having other people pay them to promote their brand.

All too often, the result is that franchisees invest their hard earned money in a brand that later fails. How do you as a potential franchisee, learn to differentiate between ethical and unethical brands?

The following questions may help:-

What experience do you have in this sector?

A new franchisor doesn’t mean an unethical franchisor; all franchisors have to start somewhere. What is really important is the previous experience the franchisor has in the sector and whether or not they are running a successful pilot operation.  Redstones was launched by owner Manjit Virdi in 2003 but it wasn’t until 2010 following the opening of their first high street outlet that the Redstones franchise brand was formally launched. This approach gave Manjit time to prove that his business model would prove successful over a sustained period of time.

Which industry bodies are you a member of?

The lettings sector is unregulated but a reputable lettings agent should be a member of recognised industry bodies such as ARLA (The Association of Residential Lettings Agents) and NAEA (National Association of Estates Agents) as well as the DPS (Deposit Protection Service), to protect tenants’ deposits.

How do you market your brand?

Gone are the days of simply placing a For Sale or To Let board outside a property in the hope that a prospective buyer or tenant will walk through the door.  Marketing requires a sustained and comprehensive effort and is influenced significantly by an online presence.  Redstones offers a state of the art marketing strategy to support all of its franchisees.

Can I have a list of your franchisees to contact?

If you are provided only with a selective list or none at all, consider it an enormous red flag. Franchisors with nothing to hide will offer you the contact details of all of their franchisees to allow you to choose who to contact. A new franchisor should at the very least operate a successful pilot operation.

What does the franchise fee include?

The franchisor should be transparent about the total investment required to launch your lettings franchise. A turnkey package with Redstones requires a total investment of between £20-25,000, including a franchise fee of £11,995.

How do you keep up-to-date with changes in industry laws?

At present the lettings agency is unregulated but landlords are still required to comply with a number of rules and regulations.  The Immigration Act to be introduced in October 2014 is a prime example of this. Reputable lettings franchisors should have systems in place to ensure all of their franchisees are continually updated with vital changes in legal requirements. The lettings and estate agency sectors are fraught with potential issues for business owners.

Are you members of the British Franchise Association (BFA)?

As a self-regulated industry body the BFA aims to promote and uphold standards of excellence in franchising. Unethical franchisors are generally not members of the BFA as they often experience high levels of disputes or failures among their franchisees. All too often they will not meet the minimum requirements for ethical franchising.

When choosing a franchisor due diligence is essential. Don’t be caught out, investing in a franchise is a life-changing decision.  To find out what it means to be part of a reputable franchise brand, contact Redstones today. You can also find out what our franchisees think about us in the video below.

Stressed Landlords

The Immigration Act – Your Questions Answered

As a landlord, one clear advantage of letting your property through a reputable agent is that you are kept up-to-date with any changes in the law relating to your tenancy agreement.

With effect from October this year, any landlord who does not check whether their tenants have the right to live in the UK may be fined.  This new law applies to a broad range of property owners, but notably to any landlord entering into a ‘residential tenancy agreement’.

At Redstones, we’ve received a number of questions from our clients over this matter and have attempted to answer them below.

What does a landlord need to do?

Before the tenancy agreement goes ahead, every landlord must check whether or not their prospective tenant has the right to live in the UK.  This extends to every adult who will be living in the property, regardless of whether their name is on the tenancy agreement or not.

What happens if a tenant has temporary permission to live in the UK?

A temporary right to live in the UK is normally granted to sponsored workers or students, for example. As a landlord you must carry out a second check when the temporary permission expires to assess whether or not it has been extended.

How does a landlord check an individual’s immigration status?

The current plan is for the government to create the ability for a landlord to check an immigrant’s status online.  In addition, an e-mail service and a telephone helpline will be made available.  By the end of this summer, a draft code of practice for landlords and lettings agents will also be issued via the government website.

Are existing tenancies affected?

Our understanding is that the new rules will only apply to tenancy agreements taking effect from October, although the specific date has not yet been advised. Existing tenancy agreements will not be affected, including renewals of those tenancies.

How does the Immigration Act apply to a lettings agency?

For landlords letting their property through a lettings agent, the responsibility for carrying out these checks lies with the lettings agent, not the property owner.  This means that any fines due as a result of negligence will be imposed on the lettings agent, not the landlord.  As always, the advice is to ensure you are letting your property through a reputable lettings agent. At Redstones, we carry out background checks on all of our tenants and will ensure that we comply in full with the new regulations giving all of our landlords peace of mind.

What fines could be imposed on landlords who fail to carry out appropriate checks?

Landlords (or lettings agents) who fail to carry out necessary checks or knowingly let their property to an individual who does not have permission to live in the UK may be fined up to £3,000 per tenant.

I’m a landlord, what should I do now?

As a landlord you should ensure the following:-

  • Properly check the immigration status of any tenant and additional occupants of your rented properties before entering into a tenancy agreement.
  • When their right to live in the UK is only temporary, always carry out further checks after that permission expires.

We would also recommend the following if you are working with a lettings agent:-

  • Read through the small print of your agreement with your lettings agent. You should ensure that your lettings agent cannot claim reimbursement of any fines imposed for their failure to carry out proper checks. If in doubt, ask.
  • Check the reputation and background of any lettings agent you work with.

Landlords who rent their properties through Redstones can be assured that we will comply with all aspects of the Immigration Act and carry out comprehensive checks on all of our tenants.

As a further note of advice we recommend that checks are carried out on all tenants and people living in your rental properties in order to avoid any claims of discrimination. Again, this does not affect landlords working with a reputable lettings agent as those checks will automatically be carried out for you.

If you are concerned about how this new law might affect your property portfolio, contact Redstones today.

Redstones Residential Sales

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Selling Your Property

If recent headlines are to be believed, selling your property in the current market should be a breeze. ‘Ghost-gazumping’ is the latest trend; that is, when property owners increase the price of their house, after previously agreeing a sale at a lower price with their buyer. Moving house is classed as one of the most stressful events in your life and this news won’t help to reassure potential buyers.

It’s important to remember that house sales are subject to regional fluctuations and – property boom aside – nothing can be taken for granted. When selling your house, it’s still essential to avoid these common mistakes:-

Mistake 1 : Thinking marketing isn’t important

Marketing your house is essential regardless of how thriving the market is.  It isn’t a case of placing a ‘For Sale’ sign and waiting for a queue of buyers to knock at your front door. A reputable estate agent will offer a proven and comprehensive marketing strategy designed to sell your property at the best possible price and in the shortest possible time. Redstones uses the very latest in walk- through technology and 3D floor plans to enhance your sale prospects.  We also offer an online property auction facility for owners seeking a quick sale.

Mistake 2 : Going it alone

Tap into the in-depth knowledge offered by a reputable estate agent in your area.  The majority of people only sell houses more than two or three times during their lifetime so experience is essential.  Redstones can advise you on the state of the local property market and offer advice on price.  For your added convenience, we also offer accompanied viewings of your property.  We also negotiate between you and your buyer to secure the best possible sale price as well as ensuring the whole process flows as smoothly as possible.

Mistake 3 : Not fixing things that are broken

Even in the current market, loose towel rails, holes in your plaster, gutters full of rubbish and door knobs that fall off can deter a buyer! Ask your estate agent to offer advice on what repairs you should make to boost your chances of an early sale.  Better still, take a walk around your house as a prospective buyer, taking detailed notes of each room.

Mistake 4 : Getting emotionally involved

Not everyone is going to share the same taste in interior design as you. If potential buyers begin to discuss painting over your favourite colour don’t take it personally.  If your colour choices can best be classed as vivid and you are struggling to sell your house, consider repainting throughout in soft, neutral tones.  Once your house is on the market, it becomes a commodity. If in doubt, ask your estate agent for their opinion but be prepared for a straight answer!

Mistake 5 : Staying with an agent who provides a poor service

An estate agent who fails to answer your calls, market your property or update you on progress with potential buyers can result in a lost sale or, worse still, no sale at all.   If you have serious concerns about your current provider, speak to Redstones. Our Switch Agent programme provides a number of straightforward steps for you to transfer handling the sale of your property to us.

Thinking of selling your property in the near future?  Make your life easier. Talk to Redstones today.

Redstones illuminated sign

5 More Reasons To Choose Redstones As Your Franchisor

Leaving the security of a successful career to invest in a new business is a daunting prospect, even for the most confident professional.  Most of you will be aware from numerous media headlines that the private residential lettings sector is a thriving market but that doesn’t guarantee success for a start-up business.

Franchising is a safer route to market than going it alone but which franchisor is the right fit for you?  We’ve previously highlighted ten reasons to choose Redstones as your franchisor.

Here, we’ve added a few more based on recommendations and feedback from the franchisees who have joined our network in 2014.

Support from the franchisor :  Redstones is committed to the development of its network and we continually seek fresh and innovative ways to support our franchisees.  Our Platinum Total Care service and Switch Agents facility are just two examples of that commitment.

Low start-up costs : With a total investment of between £20-25,000 for a turnkey package, our franchisees have told us that Redstones represents the best value for money when entering this competitive market. As a Redstones franchisee, you are also able to launch your business from serviced offices rather than a high street location.  The first year in business is always the most challenging so adding to the pressure with expensive shop-front premises doesn’t make financial sense. It all adds up to a more intelligent business model.

Territory size : Each of our franchise territories covers around 100,000 homes, with a total population of approximately 250,000.  This is significantly larger in comparison to the territories offered by other franchisors within the lettings sector. The generous size also offers our franchisees ample opportunity to expand their business.

No pressure : We know what a big decision buying a franchise is.  We won’t pressure you into joining Redstones as a franchisee. What we will do, however, is provide you with all of the information you need, answer all of your questions in an open and transparent manner and allow you to contact any or all of our current franchisees to find out what life is really like as a Redstones franchisee.

Entrepreneurial leadership : People buy from people and our people are enthusiastic, committed to the brand and ready to listen to our customers and our franchisees.  At Redstones, we also have the flexibility and agility to constantly create new and inventive ways of improving our already outstanding levels of customer service.

Before you invest in a franchise, check out the recommendations of our franchisees below:-

Research the market : Gather as much information as possible on the industry you are considering. This is especially important if you don’t have previous experience in your chosen sector.

Do your due diligence : Check out the franchisor, review the franchise agreement. Find out what it’s like operating a business within the network. What type of support is on offer? How comprehensive is the training prior to your business launch?

Speak to existing franchisees : A franchisor may simply tell you what you want to hear when you are exploring the possibility of investing in their franchise.  It’s vital to talk to the people who can tell you what life is really like as a franchisee – and that’s the existing franchisees!

Interested in finding out more about how you can become a Redstones franchisee?  Contact us today. We look forward to your call.

Renting Your Property? Why You Need A Mid-Term Inspection

At Redstones, we recommend that all of our landlords carry out a mid-term inspection on their rental properties.  As short-term tenancy agreements are generally six months long, mid-term inspections are typically carried out after three months.  For some of our clients this seems unnecessary after such a relatively short time, but lettings do occasionally go wrong.

Horror stories aside, here are more reasons to carry out that mid-term inspection:-

Review the inventory : In our experience, visiting your property half way through the tenancy ensures that it is being looked after properly. It will also provide you with the opportunity to review the condition of items listed on the initial inventory report.  The inventory provides detailed information on all fixtures, fittings and décor provided by the landlord at the commencement of the tenancy agreement.

Maintenance check : Occasionally, mid-term inspections will reveal maintenance work that needs to be carried out, such as, minor repairs to fixtures and fittings or damp and mould that may need treating.  Landlords who care for their property and attend to issues promptly generally enjoy more positive relationships with their tenants who in turn are more likely to take better care of your property.

Find out what’s really happening : Busy landlords who decide to manage their own property often neglect to carry out background checks or vet their tenants, leading to potential problems as the tenancy progresses. Frequent problems arising from tenants falling into this category include:-

  • Damage to fixtures and fittings, such as door frames, skirting boards and so on.  Failure to discover any significant damage until the end of a tenancy agreement means you risk losing one or two months’ rental income as you arrange for repairs to be carried out.
  • Gardens filled with rubbish.
  • Pets being kept in properties with a ‘no pets’ clause.  While this clause is common in some areas, surveys suggest that the number of London based landlords allowing their tenants to keep pets has risen by around 75% in recent years.
  • Tenants who cause disturbances or problems with their neighbours.
  • Properties that have been sub-let.
  • Additional people living at the property without notification.
  • Smoking in a non-smoking property.

Without a mid-term inspection, landlords may not be aware of any problems until the damage is extensive.

Enable you to make a decision on renewal : With the growing number of private rental properties in the UK, the trends is moving towards long-term tenancies. Finding a reliable, long-term tenant is every landlord’s dream but the only way to assess their potential is to carry out a mid-term inspection, especially during those first six months.

Build a positive relationship with your tenant : A tenant who treats your property with respect and pays your rent on time is worth keeping hold of. Your mid-term inspection will be able to assess whether your tenant falls into this category.

At Redstones, we offer a fully managed property service to our landlords which includes carrying out the mid-term inspection at a mutually convenient time with your tenant. Once the inspection is completed, we provide a detailed assessment of the condition of your property together with recommendations for any necessary maintenance and highlighting potential causes for concern.

Make your life easier. With Redstones fully managed option you know your property is in safe hands.  Call us today to discuss our full range of lettings services.