Wednesday, 18 July 2018

ESSENTIAL BEAUTY: WILKINSON SWORD INTUITION F.A.B RAZOR

So it might not be as glam as the release of a new contour palette but let's be right, the vast majority of us use razors for one thing or another and we are of course in prime shaving time given that our legs are out more than ever in this stupendous UK heatwave so when I saw the new Wilkinson Sword Intuition F.A.B razor on an advert I was quite intrigued. 

As an avid user of Gillette Venus razors I did wonder whether there was something as good, if not better, on the market (I did have a brief fling with some disposables from Aldi... that didn't end well). The Intuition F.A.B razor claims to be revolutionary in that it shaves backwards and forwards (hence the F.A.B...) so I thought I'd give it a whirl.



The design of the razor handle is really comfortable to hold, it doesn't slip out of your hand because of the soft rubber and the grooved grips help to give really good control over where your shaving which is obviously essential because it moves with the contours of your body without any awkwardness. 



The razor head itself is quite substantial in size and is surrounded by a water activated gel which for me is an absolute must because I find it provides so much more comfort when shaving because it doesn't pull or graze your skin even if you don't use loads of shaving gel/foam (I actually don't use shaving gel or foam I just use foaming shower gel which works just as well with a razor like this). It has 5 blades all together which ensures that you get a smooth, close, comfortable shave.  

The 'forward and back' element of this razor does take some time to get used to because obviously the natural movement is to just move one way but once you get used to the fact that you can actually shave backwards and forwards it makes things surprisingly easier than normal razors and I seemed to get a much closer shave (presumably because it's catching the hairs both ways so even the smallest of hairs get a close shave). I find that the F.A.B razor actually made shaving quicker because you don't have to lift it from your skin until you want to wet the razor.


At £11.99 for blade refills the price point is similar if not slightly cheaper than its main competitors, the initial outlay for the razor handle plus one blade is slightly higher than Venus (£11.99). Just a quick note aswell, you need to buy the specific F.A.B handle to use the backwards and forwards blades as they don't fit any other Wilkinson Sword handles. I'd definitely recommend this razor for anyone who's looking for a slightly quicker yet still comfortable and close shave.

18/07/2018 - Boots have an offer on Wilkinson Sword products where you can buy 2 for £10 so now would be the perfect time to pick a couple of these up if you're wanting to try it! Buy the F.A.B Razor here

Do you prefer refill or disposable razors?

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Friday, 15 June 2018

FOOD AND DRINK: MILLER & CARTER STEAKHOUSE DONCASTER SHARING EXPERIENCE

Steak is undoubtedly one of my absolute favourite meats. Decent steak that is. Fillet has to be my all time favourite cut, followed closely by rump along with all the trimmings and sauces. For me, meals don't get any better than that. Which is why Miller & Carter is one of my go-to restaurants for any kind of special occasion because as far as steakhouses are concerned, they have it pretty much nailed on perfect. You'd be forgiven for thinking that because it's a chain of restaurants that they will have compromised on quality one way or another but I can absolutely say the one in Doncaster is second to none. 

I have been previously but my most recent visit was with my boyfriend as a little celebration of it being a year since we met so effectively it was a bit of a treat date night. We decided before we got there that we were going to try the chateaubriand which neither of us had ever had before but I'd personally heard really good things about it from friends.

The overall experience from setting food into the restaurant to the end of our meal was so enjoyable and the food was absolutely amazing so let me get on with some food pics. (Note: I didn't take my 'proper' camera because in all honesty I didn't expect to take photos or indeed write about it but after leaving I really wanted to share my experience. The lighting isn't brilliant for photos but it is however very fitting for the feel of the restaurant.)


We started with the Taster Board which was beef & bourbon meatballs, sticky chilli-hoisin glazed chicken & duck wings, beef barbacoa mac & cheese, hand-cut nachos, buttermilk ranch dip and garlic bread. The mac & cheese really was something else. I'd never thought of putting beef with it but it really, really worked. Beef barbacoa is a little bit like pulled beef; really slowly cooked and then shredded and it comes with a number of the starter dishes but I can highly recommend it with mac & cheese. This sharer is perfect for two people, in all honesty I wouldn't particularly want to share it with more but you could probably share it between 4 as there was 4 of everything that could be portioned. 


Then the main event. The Chateaubriand which is a cut from the beef tenderloin which we had medium rare. It was absolutely delicious and came served with 2 portions of fries, 2 onion loaves (Miller & Carter's version of onion rings), 2 lettuce wedges with dressing and 2 steak sauces. To look at the board you may think it doesn't look like there's that much but trust me that piece of beef was thick! It was perfectly cooked and so tender. We would normally go for a fillet each but this didn't disappoint at all and it was really quite a nice experience to share it together. Another thing I must mention because it was so tasty was the beef dripping steak sauce. It is absolutely unreal. I'd never had it until tonight because whenever I thought beef dripping I just thought of a lump of lard and it made me wonder what I'd get if I got that steak sauce but it's actually a really rich, meaty, beefy gravy. I don't know what they do with it to get it to taste like that but it is so good!


I think because we'd saved ourselves all day for what we knew would be a huge meal we were able to fit in a pudding. Again we shared each one but I went for the banoffee pie and Kev chose the fresh berries and strawberry meringue. My personal preference was the banoffee and I think Kev would agree. The portion sizes were perfect and you could taste every little part of the banoffee pie from the biscuit base, to the toffee, to the bananas... so good!! The berry desert was also quite nice but in all honesty I would have preferred another scoop of the strawberry and prosecco sorbet instead of the meringue which was a little bit hard. 

Overall I cannot rave about Miller & Carter enough. They have restaurants all over the UK which you can find on their website and although I obviously can't speak for every restaurant but I can say that the Doncaster (Bessacarr) branch is top notch; the staff, the food; brilliant. One tip I do have though is that if you're going on a Friday or Saturday night make sure you book otherwise you run a very high risk of not being able to get a table!

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

HOME SCENTING: THE PERFECT HOUSEWARMING GIFT

I'm no stranger to a candle/reed diffuser or two; I have at least one if not more in every room of my house because I do like it to smell nice. I do think that for anyone who's just moved house either for the first time or to a different house, candles are a perfect go to housewarming present and the new Wax Lyrical Yvonne Ellen collection combines both beautiful scents and gorgeous designs to compliment any decor. 



Yvonne Ellen Votive Giftset £25.99 (Wax Lyrical)

The packaging shows of Yvonne Ellen's quirky illustrations but inside the Votive Giftset there are 3 votive candles each with a timeless, simple design which would suit any decor. In midnight blue, powder pink and grey/white they can either be split up into single candles or displayed as a trio. 

As you would expect, the scents are just as beautiful as the packaging; Wild Jasmine, Exotic Fig and Vintage Palm which are all gorgeous. My personal favourite is the Exotic Fig because the fig is nicely subtle but the tonka bean really comes through which I love... the perfect kind of fragrance for a bedroom. Wild Jasmine is more of a musky kind of scent but not in any way overpowering at all which is the beauty of the Wax Lyrical formulation because although they do fill the room with fragrance, they're not the kind of candles that would induce a headache thankfully. Finally Vintage Palm is a lovely fresh scent which would be perfect for any hallway or kitchen. Even when these candles aren't lit their scent is still noticeable which for me is a tell-tale sign of a good quality candle.

The beauty of these little votives is that whether you buy them as a treat for yourself or for someone else, it's the perfect introduction to Wax Lyrical. Each of the 3 candles is available in a larger version so if you found one in particular that you really enjoyed you could buy the full size version. All Wax Lyrical products are made in the UK with the highest quality ingredients so you can guarantee that you're getting an excellent quality product and you can be safe in the knowledge that you're supporting a British business. Also, all Wax Lyrical products are vegetarian friendly.

You can find the full Yvonne Ellen collection along with their other extensive range of home scenting products on the Wax Lyrical website.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

HOME & LIFESTYLE: WHAT TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE RENTING YOUR FIRST PROPERTY

As you may have already seen, I have recently bought my own house after a huge life change last year but I’m very aware that buying isn’t for everyone. For one reason or another, whether it’s that you haven’t quite saved enough for a full deposit, you want to trial living with someone or that you just don’t want to buy a house; ultimately you might choose to rent. But just like with buying a house there are lots of things that you’re going to want to consider when renting your first house.



Shop around and make sure you love it!

Almost all rental properties have a minimum term for renting; they usually start at 6 months so make sure that the property you rent is definitely the one for you because you’ll be paying for it for at least that minimum rental period. Don’t just jump straight into the first one you see, no matter how perfect you think it is because you need a basis for comparison. Try and fit your viewings into a fairly short space of time so you don’t miss out on the one you do like but do have a look at a few.

Check the terms and conditions

Before you sign anything, make sure you know the rules that your landlord would impose and what is included in the rental price. You need to ask whether any furniture or appliances are included, whether you are allowed to paint or wallpaper or indeed make any changes to the house at all and what procedures are if something goes wrong.

Take an inventory

So once you’ve decided on your perfect house, before you get too excited and sign on the dotted line make sure you got through the house with a fine-toothed comb. Ask the landlord or agent to allow you plenty of time to do this so you can identify anything that you would like rectifying before you move in – the carpets might not be in very good condition, the paintwork might need freshening up etc. etc. Make sure you know what you are getting before you sign anything because most properties are ‘let as seen’ which means that they may reserve the right to refuse to touch up paintwork or change things like carpets once you’ve signed the agreement.



Check details and terms of the bond/deposit
Make sure you know how much deposit you will be expected to put down and enquire about the terms of that deposit (ie. In which situations would you lose part or all of your deposit). It is also worth making sure the deposit is protected (by law if you are in an ‘assured shorthold tenancy, which you entered into before 6 April 2007, your deposit must be put into a protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it).

Get insurance!

Although your landlord or agent should have arranged adequate buildings insurance for the property, it is usually your responsibility to arrange contents and liability insurance for the time you’re renting. To cover your personal property and liability as a tenant you will need to take out separate insurance; you can either do this through someone like HomeLet who will provide up to £50,000 of cover for your contents so things like gadgets, clothes and appliances are protected against fire, theft and flood. The liability cover would protect you if you accidentally damage the property, which would result in you normally having to pay for the repairs.

Check the overall costs

So you rent sounds reasonable and you can easily afford it; but have you considered the price of your utilities, council tax and other monthly costs like broadband, mobile phone bill etc. You really need to make sure you've got all the facts before you enter into any contract. Generally with a quick google search you can get approximate figures for bills depending on the size of the house/flat and how many people are living in it but just make sure you don't get caught short!

Have you got any other tips for renting your first house?


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Sunday, 27 May 2018

FOOD & DRINK: PROPER YORKSHIRE GRUB AT THE YORK ROAST CO.

Established in 2004, the York Roast Co isn't actually a new thing to me in itself because I've been visiting York for a long time and their hot roast sandwiches have always been a favourite of mine when I've looked for something to eat either while I'm shopping or even while I'm out having a few. Roast dinners with all the trimmings have always been a favourite meal of mine so when Yorkshire Pudding wraps became a thing I was all over that and you can imagine my reaction when I was asked if I wanted to go and try one at the new Stonegate store where they have opened up a new seating area...




Unsurprisingly, the shop always has somebody in whether it's for a hot sandwich, a filled yorkshire pudding or what I went for - a Yorkshire Pudding wrap. You can of course take it away but if you want to take a minute to rest your feet, especially after a morning of sightseeing or shopping then the new upstairs seating area is perfect. Space is at a premium in York so it's actually quite nice to see that more places are taking advantage of upstairs space to offer customers somewhere to sit. 


As you can see the seating area is quite simple but theres plenty of tables and chairs and there's a bigger table overlooking Stonegate which is perfect for people watching! It isn't waiter/waitress service so you order your food as you normally would downstairs and take it upstairs on a tray. 


I daresay that this is one of the main things that lures people in - you can see all the meaty goodness through the window so effectively you see exactly what is going into your sandwich or Yorkshire pudding which I think is a real winner and I don't think us Brits can turn down any kind of roast especially when we've not slaved away over it!


The choice of meats is pork, turkey, beef and ham plus lots of little extras like roast potatoes with gravy, stuffing balls and crackling. We both went for beef Yorkshire pudding wraps with all the trimmings (veg, gravy and I had horseradish sauce) with a side of roast potatoes covered in gravy... I'll not lie, getting a photo of this kind of food that does it justice is really quite difficult but I can assure you that it was every bit as tasty as you would expect...





Admittedly it doesn't look the prettiest of things but for me that just screams Yorkshire - no heirs and graces just a good old Yorkshire pudding filled with meat, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. It was surprisingly easy to eat despite the fact that it involved gravy which can be notoriously messy and it was sooo nice! The beef was very lean and tender, the vegetables were cooked to perfection and the gravy was nice and thick (if there's one thing that makes me sad, it's thin gravy!). The Yorkshire pudding of course was the shall we say 'vessel' for all of this and it was amazing! Something different to your usual meat sandwich and it was really filling.

I would 100% recommend The York Roast Co. in a heartbeat and in particular their Yorkshire pudding wraps. They do have other stores in Chester, Shrewsbury and Salisbury so you might not be as far away from a Yorky Pud Wrap as you think!

Have you tried one yet?

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Thursday, 10 May 2018

WISHLIST: SUMMER FOOTWEAR SAVINGS

The great British weather has been teasing us yet again with some gorgeously warm weather over the past month or so and I've been absolutely dying to get some flip flops and espadrilles out because they are my ultimate favourite shoes (weather dependent, obviously). I'm always looking to expand my little collection of summer footwear so naturally I've veered towards the sale areas of different websites and thanks to Groupon I managed to find the latest savings for Office all in one place!



Love a bit of boho-fringe!

Toms Black Crochet Slip on £44.00 £32.00
Toms are the comfiest summer shoes and this crochet version is lovely and girly

These look quite chunky but the glitter just sold it for me and I bet they're soo comfy!

Sprinkles Toe Post Sandals £40.00 £28.00
Love the embellishment down the middle on these



Simple yet could be dressed up for an occasion

This simple rope style is perfect for dressing up or down for a walk along the beach

Zaxy Start Bloom Pumps £35.00 £25.00
Very Viv but at a fraction of the price!

The signature Ted Baker bow style just doesn't get old for me 


So there you go, my pick of the current Office sale! I do love a good bargain and I genuinely don't ever buy anything online without searching for a discount code first, which is where Groupon comes in. You'd be forgiven for thinking they were just for those special deals on restaurant meals and spa breaks but they actually have a full section of online discount codes sorted by retailer so it's super handy when you're looking for something to bring down the cost of your online basket; it's well worth giving them a look! They have all the popular fashion retailers on there like ASOS, New Look, Urban Outfitters, Boots and loads more so definitely go and have a look next time you shop online.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

WISHLISTS: NEW HOUSE LOVES + HOMEWARES DISCOUNT CODE

As you may have already seen, I recently bought my first house... all on my own, mortgage and all. So my focus has quickly shifted to spending any spare pennies on nice things for my house. Anyone who has a house will know that furnishing and decorating is a gradual thing for most people; I've obviously bought the essentials in terms of appliances, sofas and a bed but it's all the little bits and pieces that make a house a home which I've yet to get hold of yet. So because I spend so much time browsing online for different house-y bits I thought I'd share what I'd found recently from La Redoute as they've got 30% off at the moment with the code SAVE30...



Domeno Ladder Shelf Unit £139.00 £97.30
Because space comes at a bit of a premium in my little 2 bedroomed house this shelf unit/desk is perfect because I could either slot it in a little space downstairs or it would go perfectly in the spare room without taking up so much room. AND it's something a little bit different isn't it!

Quilda Vintage-Style Double-Height End Table £96.00 £67.20
Having somewhere for drinks near the sofa without worrying about knocking them over is an issue at the moment but this little end table looks like the perfect solution because it's small enough just to slot in but also high enough that theres absolute minimal effort to reach for a drink while I'm being totally lazy on the sofa!


Watford Vintage Dining Table £299.99 £210.00 & Bimat Set of 2 Chairs £168.00 £117.60
Believe it or not I still don't have a table and chairs which has resulted in me having to eat my dinner in front of the TV which isn't ideal but this table is quite quirky I think with the black triangle shaped legs - something different to the usual solid wood tables I've seen everywhere!


If any of this takes your fancy you can find it on the La Redoute website but make sure you use the code SAVE30 at the checkout to get prices with 30% off! You can also find loads of different homewares and appliances with various different payment options at approvedcatalogues.co.uk


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Tuesday, 10 April 2018

TOP TIPS: WEDDING CHECKLIST FOR YOUR BIG DAY

It's almost prime wedding season and when you are planning your big day, you want everything to be just perfect. From the smaller details like your invitation design, to your choice of venue, a lot of work goes into ensuring that your wedding lives up to your dreams. To make sure that you don’t run out of time to book services or forget to include anything, we have pulled together a comprehensive checklist of all the things that you need to remember:


1. Calculate your budget

Before you plan anything, you will need to decide what budget you are working towards. If you are receiving contributions from your families then you need to have these conversations before you start looking at venues or anything else as your budget will dictate most of the decisions you are going to make. The majority of weddings run well over the allocated budget, so try to think about under-spending to stay within your budget.

2. Choose the venue (and date available)

This will be the biggest decision and usually needs the most advanced booking, so make sure the venue is your first big task as it can take quite a lot of research and visits, unless you already have a place in mind. Whether you want a quiet registry office ceremony or a big, extravagant wedding venue choice like Goosedale, the sooner you start with this task, the better. Deciding your date might come down solely to venue availability but could also be influenced by price, weather and guest availability.

3. Select your wedding party

Once you know the size and type of venue, it is easier deciding on how many people will make up your wedding party. This can be one of the most stressful parts of the entire planning, if people are expecting to be included and they are not. The earlier you communicate this, the less chance that people will have already made assumptions that they are included in the wedding party.

4. Guest list

The guest list can be another tricky affair, especially when you are on a tight budget or want to have a small, intimate ceremony. Again, the sooner that this gets confirmed, the more time you will have to adjust the list and invite additional people if others cannot make it on your big day.

5. Send out the invitations

Send the invites out as soon as you can so that people have the chance to RSVP and let you know that they can definitely make it. You might need to chase people up for responses and some people prefer to set up an online RSVP to make the process quicker.

6. Book your officiant

Make sure you leave plenty of time to book your officiant because you simply can’t have a wedding without one!



7. Final bookings and arrangements for the day:

• Caterers and menu
• Wedding outfits
• Wedding cake
• Weddings rings
• Photographer
• Car/vehicle hire
• Florist
• Entertainment
• Hotel accommodation
• Drinks for the toast
• Gifts for the wedding party
• Plan the order of the day
• Table plan
• Ceremony music
• Choose photo scenes/locations

If you use this list as a guide then you should be able to relax and enjoy your big day without worrying about the smaller details. You can always hire a wedding planner to take responsibility for everything if your budget allows, or you can delegate certain tasks to different members of the wedding party if you trust them enough to be organised. Remember, it is your day and you can plan it however you want to, so don’t worry about trying to keep everyone else happy!

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Thursday, 5 April 2018

TRAVEL: TOP TIPS FOR A FIRST TIME SKI TRIP

I've just recently returned from a 5 day ski trip to Alpendorf in Austria and given that it was my first time skiing I thought I'd share my top tips for anyone else thinking of going for the first time. I left the UK with just 2 hours of skiing tuition under my belt and I felt totally underprepared having no idea what to expect when I got there and I relied quite heavily on YouTube packing videos for guidance on what to take but there were some things that I would definitely have been better off knowing before I went! 



1. Get some tuition before you go
Even if you just get a couple of hours in a group session on a fake ski slope it is much better to arrive having already worn skis and ski boots for a short time because then at least you know what they're going to feel like. You can book time with an instructor at places like Xscape (Castleford & Milton Keynes) and Chill Factore (Manchester) which will give you a feel for what it's like and you can learn the basics and more depending how much time you have. Skiing, even with prior tuition is quite daunting because the conditions are so different but I'm really pleased I went to Xscape beforehand. You can get tuition when you're in-resort but I'd say your experience of skiing is going to be far better if you can ski before you go, mastering parallel turns will do you the world of good.

2. Make sure you take plenty of layers
Depending on the weather, you might not actually need thermals etc. but you do need to dress for the top of the mountain regardless of what the weather is like at the bottom. It can and probably will be much colder at the top than it is at the bottom of the resort. If you layer up you can always take layers off. Even at the end of the season every day I wore a long sleeved thermal top, a t-shirt, a microfleece and a ski jacket and only 1 of the 5 days skiing did I feel the need to undo my jacket for a while. 




3. Accessories are always a good idea
I can't stress how different conditions can be from one day to the next (even one hour to the next!) so it's really important that you're equipped for it to be tipping with snow. The most important things I'd say you need to put in your suitcase accessories-wise are goggles (these come with different levels of UV filter and light uplift abilities so it's a good idea to find out the weather for the time of year you're going and buy accordingly. Definitely buy a neck warmer or a buff (basically a tightish fitting snood), I don't like the idea of scarves because there's too much to get caught in ski lifts etc. but a neck warmer will keep your neck and lower face from feeling the cold. Sunglasses are also a good idea but they need a good UV filter because trust me being up in the mountain, the light bouncing off the white snow makes it almost impossible to see sometimes! Sunglasses are good for days when it is actually sunny but not snowing. 


4. Suncream is also always a very good idea
As you probably already know, the sun is actually really strong up in the mountains. Because the air is thinner and there's lots of reflection from the snow, it's surprisingly easy to burn up there. Admittedly the surface area which isn't covered by clothing is small but nevertheless burnt cheeks, forehead and nose is never good look so you do need to buy some sun screen. You also definitely need to get something for your lips too because they will burn and become very dry and sore very quickly if you're not careful. I went for a ski protection duo from Malibu with a small tube of face cream and a lip protection stick and it was exactly what I needed (sun protection and it still has the signature coconut scent, what more could you want?!)


5. Make sure your ski boots fit properly 
I can't stress this enough because this ruined the second day of my holiday. I couldn't ski because my ill-fitting boots gave me a blister on my shin in the first day, I assumed they were supposed to be a little uncomfortable so I soldiered on but it turns out they shouldn't be quite that uncomfortable. If you're hiring do not hesitate to go back if they feel like they're rubbing anywhere. Admittedly, ski boots aren't the most comfortable thing but when I discovered what it felt like to wear a pair that fit properly it was like walking on clouds compared the others. 

6. Expect to be very, very tired
Skiing is hard and every bit an extreme sport. Doing 5+ days is a heck of a lot of quite intense exercise in one go and it really does work out muscles that you never knew you had. I quite literally hate failing at anything but I could have easily given up sometimes because I found it so difficult! They say the worst week of skiing you'll have is your first one but I can safely say that I was so proud of myself by the end of the week because I at least graduated from the nursery slope onto some of the 'proper' runs. 



7. Buy a jacket with a zip pocket on the arm for your ski pass
Chances are, you'll have a little card which gives you access to lifts which ultimately enables you to ski which will need to be accessed quickly so you don't hold queues up; the last thing you want to be doing is stressing about getting it out of the bottom of a bag so buy a jacket with a zip pocket on the arm so it will just automatically scan as you walk/ski through.

8. Don't be scared of falling
You will fall when you're skiing. Whether you're going down a particularly steep run or you just lose your balance but it is so easily done and just remember not to be embarrassed because even the most experienced skiers fall!

9. Check out the map of the ski resort before you go
If it's your first time you'll want to be heading to blue runs because they're generally quite nice in terms of steepness etc. the last thing you want to do is jump in at the deep end because in short you simply won't be able to do it. Even if you have had tuition in the UK you'll quickly realise that although the artificial snow is good, the reality can be very, very different.

10. Most of all... have fun, have a laugh and enjoy the traditional apres ski culture!

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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

BUYING A NEW BUILD SERIES: HOW TO CREATE A 'SNAGGING LIST'

If you're a new build owner, you'll be no stranger to the infamous 'snag list'. Some people's have a few things on it and some new owners have lists which are much, much bigger. I personally was at a bit of a loss as to what to look for to put on it before I moved in properly but trust me your snags will become apparent when you move in.

For those of you who are wondering what 'snags' are it's basically things that need touching up or adjusting in your house because ultimately builders will make mistakes and miss bits when they're working to tight deadlines. Some snags will seem petty but when it's your house and you've paid a lot of money for it you want everything to be right. I wouldn't recommend trying to snag on your home demo; you'll only see glaringly obvious stuff then and you need to use that time to listen to what your site manager has to say about your new home because he will give you some valuable advice. Personally I think snagging is best done gradually, taking one room at a time and looking carefully.



Here's what I would pay particular attention to:

GENERAL SNAGS

Have all your Finishing Touches/extras been included? Part of my turf incentive was a 1.8m fence which hadn't been included. Granted they only ended up putting it on one side anyway because only one side belongs to me (*eye roll*) but it's one half that I don't need to pay for.

Outside brickwork - make sure there are no chips, cracks or holes that shouldn't be there

Settlement cracks - these are perfectly normal and shouldn't be anything to worry about but they are unsightly nevertheless so you need to make a note of where these have appeared. These will appear for a while after your house is built so they may need to come back a few times to fill them in. I've heard some site managers won't fill in until you can fit a pound coin in them, however this hasn't been the case with mine - I had a huge crack along my stairs and they filled it within the first month along with a few other small ones but they are still showing up nearly 2 months after I moved in.

Try all light switches/sockets/USB ports/phone sockets and TV aerial sockets - be mindful that until you have a TV aerial your sockets won't work; in my previous post about hidden costs of a new build I mentioned that new builds generally don't come with an actual aerial.

If you've not had flooring put down check that your floor is level and there's no huge gaps between the skirting and actual floor - you can still do this with flooring down but it might not be as easy to spot.

Check the door frames have been filled round the edges - I ran my fingers along the top of the door frames in all rooms and discovered that there was a huge gap between that and the wall where they'd not filled it. To me this is just laziness in the hope that the homeowner doesn't notice; it's a two minute job though.

Check all exterior doors and handles work as they should - The lock had actually dropped quite a lot on my front door for some reason which meant that the handle was a pain to lift and when you thought you'd locked it the door was actually still unlocked!! Again a couple of minutes job just to adjust the door.

Check all windows open and close as they should - You should have received keys for these if they are key-operated so make sure they open and close properly. If you're unsure how they work just ask your site manager to show you again.

Make sure all radiators are working properly - are they all getting hot as they should?

Is all paintwork and finishing neat and tidy? - Have any walls been accidentally scratched or marked since they've been painted? Have the undersides of your windowsills been painted (an area which seems to be overlooked!).

Check behind things to make sure they've been finished properly - Behind the small radiator in my downstairs toilet was an absolute mess of wires etc. which hadn't been properly plastered, painted and finished (presumably another thing they thought I might not notice with it being behind a radiator) and they've also not finished off the painting properly behind my downstairs loo.

KITCHEN

Try all appliances and make sure they work properly - one of my snags was that my oven made an awful rattling noise when it reached a certain temperature. Turns out that the casing had dropped slightly and was catching on the cooling fan, it was a simple fix of just adjusting it slightly and it's fine now. Check all gas rings and extractor fans.

Check all taps, plugs and overflow pipes to ensure there are no leaks and water pressure is good - I had a leaky tap (identified by the pool of water which collected at the bottom of it) and a leaky overflow which hadn't been properly sealed (identified by finding water dripping into the cupboard under the sink).

Check all cupboards are aligned - sounds daft but a slightly wonky cupboard will drive you insane!

Boiler pressure - keep an eye on your boiler pressure and make sure it stays somewhere between 1 and 2. If it drops below one this can indicate a problem but don't try and solve it yourself, make sure you always notify your site manager.

BATHROOM/DOWNSTAIRS TOILET

Make sure toilet flushers work properly - sometimes a slight misalignment can mean it can be awkward to push the button down to flush the loo - nobody wants that do they.

Check all taps for leaks and adequate water pressure - the pressure on the cold tap in my bathroom is shocking and has yet to be sorted. I also had a leak on my bath taps which I found out the hard way when a huge wet patch appeared on my living room ceiling. Not ideal at all and it did happen twice in my case because the first time they came to 'fix' it, they hadn't actually fixed it but when they came back a second time they replaced the taps.

Check the seals round the bath - also do this after you've had a full bath.

Check that the bath side panel runs flush with the floor - mind didn't and the builders put an extra bit on the bottom to tidy it up.

Check the extractor fan works - and always make sure you use it when you shower or bath.

Check that the plugs don't leak water out - Both my upstairs and downstairs bathroom sinks have a defect in the plugs where water escapes even when they're pushed down and closed. I'm told it's a manufacture's fault and I'm waiting on replacements.

Check tile grout and alignment - Unfortunately when things are rushed attention to detail often isn't a priority but you will notice it if your tiles aren't properly straight also check all tiles have been grouted properly.

Check your shower fitting and make sure it works and there are no leaks

Wow, that seems like a huge list for snagging and believe me this is not an exhaustive list. As I said, some of the snags will stare you square in the face but others you will have to look a little closer for but it's well worth doing so because generally if the builders are still on site they're easily contactable and they will come and do all your snags for you. If they haven't and you have encountered problems you must go to your sales office and push for help and if you don't get any joy from there you need to ring Persimmon (or your developer's) head office. I did that with my leak and they got the site staff on it pretty much straight away.

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Monday, 19 February 2018

BUYING A NEW BUILD SERIES: HIDDEN COSTS

When I bought my house I noticed a distinct lack of information like this, as a lone-buyer (like a lone wolf but just an independent woman buying a house on her own *insert sassy girl hand out emoji here*) all I wanted was some real life advice and guidance on buying new builds; the pros, cons, tips and 'warnings', if you will. This is by no means a definitive fact sheet but mainly advice I can give based on my own experience. As some of you may know (especially if you're here from Instagram) I bought a Persimmon Homes new build but I imagine that a lot of the information here will also apply to most other new build property developers. You'd assume that buying a new build would mean you'd be ready to go with all the things you need included in the price but unfortunately this really isn't the case but here's what experience has taught me...



You need to ask what they're willing to give for free 
This will very much depend on the site and how popular it has been but it honestly doesn't hurt to ask the question about what extras they can include free of charge. I'm lucky to have a step-dad who isn't a stranger to bartering and he managed to get me money off the release price of the house and turf to the rear of my house. Persimmon often have promotions on certain houses which can be found on their website if they're looking to sell a particular type of build so make sure you check on there and make sure you just ask the question in the sales office. The worst thing they will do is say no.

Be aware of what is and isn't included with your house
You'll quickly realise that with any new build the majority of the 'nice' things in a house come at an extra cost; the extra bits that you would probably assume would come with your house could cost you a pretty penny so although it's unavoidable I always think it's better to be forewarned and forearmed because unexpected costs can be a shock especially if you're on a tight budget. Here are some of the things to remember when considering your 'finishing touches' spend:


- Standard tiling in bathrooms is minimal; depending on your style of house they'll maybe only do 2 rows of tiling or in my case they'll tile up the wall where the shower is but then leave a huge square bare so the shower is rendered pretty much unusable unless you want to wet the plasterboard through. 

- Which leads me onto the shower situation; in my experience a standard shower above the bath in Persimmon homes isn't great, it's literally a shower head on a fixed holder with a ring to hold the hose in place halfway down meaning that it's very difficult (if not impossible) to use the shower to swill the bath out. They also gave me the most horrendous white, crinkly shower curtain which I quickly replaced with a £3 Primark one which was infinitely better. In houses with an ensuite they do not include a shower above the bath as standard. That said, if you are just looking for a slightly better shower above your bath you can get these from B&Q for around £30 and glass shower screens can be bought for around £80.

- You only get a choice of kitchen up to a certain build stage so you need to enquire about this at your sales office. If you can choose you will probably only get a choice of 3 different colours of door; I upgraded to a full choice of colours and designs which cost £350 for a 2 bedroomed house and the price does increase the bigger the house. 

- The standard appliances in Persimmon homes are limited to a white oven and hob. You can upgrade to stainless steel extractor hood, hob and oven for £375 - that's all down to personal taste though, it doesn't improve functionality and you can definitely live without it. 

- Your new home will not include a TV aerial so unless you get sky you're looking at around £125 to have an aerial installed. I paid for an additional TV aerial socket in my bedroom and at no point was I told that I didn't get a TV aerial. Slightly annoying and £125 that I didn't expect to spend. 

- Your home will not come with turf as standard. I think lots of people have found this out the hard way; as I said I was lucky enough to get turf included as an incentive but both my neighbours currently have a mud garden. Not ideal in winter especially when you have children and dogs. 

- Waste/recycling bins aren't anything to do with your developer but it's definitely worth keeping in mind that your local council may charge you for bins. I have 2 bins which cost me £36 each... another £72 I wasn't expecting to pay! Pop your postcode (or one near yours if you're unsure what it will be) into the government website to find out more information from your local authority.

- Carpets do not come as standard this shocked me when I first found out and they're really bloody expensive from Persimmon. However it is something that I've known a fair few people get included as an incentive. I didn't get them included but I did use a local company for mine (Floor Coverings Local for anyone in the South Yorkshire area) and they managed to shave over £1000 off the price that Persimmon had quoted for my whole house and I had picked the best underlay and premium carpets. It is a pain moving into an uncarpeted house but I was lucky enough to be flexible with my move in date so I just arranged for them to go as soon as I received my keys; they were brill actually, I'd definitely recommend them.

- Double check that your house is freehold. Some houses are sold as leasehold properties which basically means that you own the bricks and mortar but you actually rent the land it's on from the developer which will incur a yearly cost. It's just something to double check so you're not hit with an unexpected £100+ a year ground rent charge. Persimmon actually sent me an invoice by mistake and I nearly hit the roof when I saw it because I knew full well that my house was freehold - thankfully after a quick phone call it was all resolved but you really do need to be aware that leasehold properties do still exist.

- You may need a joiner or someone handy with tools to cut holes in your kitchen cupboards for appliances - this might not incur a cost if you've got someone who can do it for you or the people on site are helpful and accommodating but your kitchen won't come with holes for things like your washing machine piping and fridge plug so you'll need to get these sorted.

So as you can see the costs can mount up if you're not expecting them but this shouldn't put you off new builds because you have to remember that if you were to buy a pre-owned house there'd probably be things you'd want to change immediately which you'd obviously factor in when you were buying the house; so this is very much the same. What you have to keep in mind is that everything in your new house is shiny, new and 100% yours to put your own stamp on.

*all prices in this post are correct as of September 2017.
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Thursday, 15 February 2018

BUYING A NEW BUILD SERIES: THE PROCESS FOR FIRST TIME BUYERS (INCLUDING NEW BUILD EXPERIENCE USING HELP TO BUY)

Buying a house for the first time can be a very daunting experience but if you go into it feeling clued up and aware of what's actually going to happen then you shouldn't feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing. I did it on my own (I had support from my family in terms of them just being there but I was the only person signing on the dotted line so-to-speak) and I am so proud of myself now, I'd definitely put it down as one of my biggest achievements in life. I'm going to focus this post more on the paper work side of buying a house rather than the fact that it's a new build because that'll be a whole different post.

Luckily I actually kept a timeline of dates so I knew exactly what happened and when. From the date of receiving a mortgage in principle to legal completion it took just over 3 months. This can differ quite wildly even with new builds depending on your site and build stage so the dates I give obviously don't provide a hard and fast rule but they do give an idea of the process...

10th September - Mortgage in Principle

After viewing one of the houses similar to the one I was interested in, I went into the sales office and used Persimmon's recommended financial advisors from Safeguard Financial Services who assisted in getting me an agreement in principle (also known as mortgage in principle). An AIP is basically where a lender will tell you that they are prepared to lend you money. They ask you a few questions relating to your incomings and outgoings and they assess whether you can realistically afford to buy the house you're interested in. Luckily I was given an Agreement in Principle there and then; sometimes it can take 30 minutes or so for a decision. This doesn't mean you've got a mortgage, it means in theory based on your income they would be willing to lend x-amount.

An agreement in principle is usually valid for 90 days but this can vary.

16th September - Plot Reservation

So I knew that they would lend me the money I needed 'in principle' but I gave myself a few days just to mull it over in my head so I wasn't making any rash decisions - this was buying a house after all!! After weighing up the pros and cons and making sure in my own head that I could afford it, I decided to reserve the plot with Persimmon. This was £100 and was refundable if the mortgage offer fell through. 

17th September - Finishing Touches

With new build houses, depending on the build stage you can choose extras and upgrades (believe me pretty much everything costs extra in a new build... but more on that in another post) and because mine was approaching the cut off point for ordering finishing touches I decided to get on with it and I paid for a kitchen upgrade to full choice of cupboard door colours and designs, stainless steel hob and an extra TV aerial port upstairs in what would be my bedroom.

18th September - Instructed Solicitors

The next step is to instruct your solicitor to do the conveyancing on your behalf. What you can usually do is get a rough quote before you choose who you go with and bare in mind that it will probably cost a little more if you're doing Help to Buy due to the extra paper work. 

19th September - Mortgage Application Submitted & Valuation Fee Paid

For me, this is where Safeguard Financial Services really were very helpful for me as they were a really good helping hand in getting all this done properly. They went through all the questions with me on the phone and although there's a LOT to answer they're really good at making you feel at ease with everything. So my mortgage application was submitted and as part of getting a mortgage you need to have the property valued by the lender so that they know that they're lending on a house that's worth the money you're paying. This cost £315 and was payable immediately. 

21st September - Mortgage agreed subject to valuation

I think those two days were some of the longest I've ever experienced; waiting for a mortgage offer is torture because I personally thought of a million different stupid reasons as to why they wouldn't lend to me. They were all unfounded worries because I'd passed the credit check stage of it and just had to wait to make sure the house was worth what they were selling it for. 

25th September - Help to Buy application submitted

In my opinion this was fairly straightforward - most of it was filled out by Safeguard but I just had to check it over and make some minor changes to the property information form - small mistakes can be a pain in the neck which I soon discovered.

26th September - Help to Buy approved

Wahoo, that was quick....

28th September - Valuation done

29th September - Mortgage Offer Received

This is some of the most marvellous news when buying a house, especially for the first time because it means that everything should be able to get moving. Mortgage offers usually last 6 months though so it's important to make sure you complete in time otherwise you could end up having to re-apply which can be stressful.

4th October - Help to Buy sent back

So I got an email from Yorkshire Housing to tell me that they had in fact been handling my Help to Buy case in error, they approved it but realised that my Local Authority wasn't in their area. Durrr. So anyway it was re-done and re-sent to East Midlands Help to Buy. Just something that I didn't really need or want to happen because it involved a lot of paper work.

10th October - Help to Buy re-approved and Authority to Proceed re-issued.

This basically meant that again they had agreed to let me use the help to buy scheme.

9th November - Exchanged contracts

It was all quiet on the western front for a month and I was getting a bit anxious about the fact that nothing seemed to be happening and Persimmon like to keep to deadlines and timescales. I spent much of the month chasing my solicitor and pushing for an exchange. Basically exchange of contracts is the point where backing out would become very expensive - usually the majority of the deposit for your house will be transferred over (at least to solicitors who will then pass it to the bank) and you sign a legally binding contract to buy the house.

1st December - Notice to complete received

Once the building work is finished, Persimmon will give a 2 week notice to legally complete on the house which is when your solicitor should be putting all hands on deck to get everything in place ready for a specific date. 

15th December - Legal Completion

This part was probably the smoothest and most stress-free part of the whole buying process. I knew completion was the 15th, I had a home demo the day before where the site manager showed me round my newly built house and then on the day of completion I got a phone call from my solicitor to say we had completed and that the house was now legally mine! I then gave my Persimmon sales office a ring to see if she had had notification from their solicitors and she had so I could go and collect the keys whenever I wanted. That day was very, very surreal but the most amazing feeling!


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