Moving in – how to cut costs and make life easier

By Iona Bain
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As you wait to get your hands on the keys, it’s a good time to find out what you might need to know about the property.

Have a look at this guide to find out what you need to know before the big day.

Checklist

You should try to ask the seller, or if that’s not possible the agent, about things that could prove a nuisance if you forget to find out.

For a start, you need to know where the mains stopcock is, to shut off the water, and where the gas and electricity meters are if not obvious.  If the supplies are continuous, you need to know who is providing the gas and electricity, and the phone/broadband service.

If there are fittings or paint finishes that you actually like, it might be an idea to ask whether there is any leftover paint, or where the fittings (such as kitchen cabinets) came from.

If there is any serious work that needs doing on the property, such as damp-proofing or a roof repair, it makes sense to wait until they are done before you move in (if possible).  Cosmetic improvements can wait, and you can work round them.  It is only when you have moved in and get to know the property that you can really assess what needs doing, how it can be done, how much of it you are prepared to tackle yourself to keep costs down, and what, if anything, will need a specialist tradesman.

Removals

When it comes to the move, it depends how much stuff you have.

You could be attracted by adverts for two men and a van for £60 per hour.  But remember this is your big moving day, and your possessions, you will be entrusting to the firm you choose. If it employs untrained casual labour, you may get little care and have no comeback in the event of damage.  Worse, unless you have a proper written agreement, the firm might not turn up, or might ask for more money than verbally agreed, knowing you are captive.

At a minimum, you should get a signed agreement which clearly sets out the service and who you are dealing with.

Perhaps you can manage the move yourself, with a mate or two, by hiring a van for the day. You could pay as little as £27 for six hours.

If you do need a removal company, try websites such as Reallymoving.com, which promises five local quotations, and Removal Reviews. Whoever you choose should be a member of the British Association of Removers. Prices tend to start at £500 for a small two-bed house.

If you are leaving a rented place, you need to get your post redirected using Royal Mail forms. As this costs from £30 for each surname for a three-month period, you need to spend time updating the people who mail you – especially if you receive bills rather than pay by direct debit. Unpaid bills risk damaging your credit rating, and unclaimed letters expose you to the risk of identity fraud. If mail arrives at the property for previous occupants, you should write ‘not at this address - return to sender’ on the envelope and put it back in the post.

You will need to get yourself registered to vote on the gov.uk website. Unless you are on the electoral roll, in the right place, you will not only lose your right to vote but you will find it harder to get credit.

Services

As a matter of policy, it makes sense to switch energy supplier when you move in. The market is so competitive that you are almost guaranteed to be saving money on the previous contract, and these days the process is so easy.  You may, however, have to guess the property’s energy consumption – enter the small or medium usage settings when obtaining your quotes.  When you move in, you will have to take the meter readings straight away.

You should already know whether the property’s water is metered or unmetered. If the latter, it will probably be charged according to rateable value. You could ask for a meter to be installed, but check with the water company what the fixed charge will be, and how it compared with the average use for two people or however many will be moving in. In the end, it could pay to keep to the fixed charge.

Broadband is now an essential service but people often forget about it and then expect to get it switched on immediately. It can take time from ordering the service to getting a line installed, with BT engineers (who will reconnect a line) often on a four-week lead time. Try to plan ahead; decide on your provider (and check their coverage in your area). When you get them on the phone, get a clear idea of the timetable and when you can expect your wireless to be up and running.

Other troubleshooting

If you are going to need local tradesmen, this is the time when your wooing of estate agents may pay off. They will know the local men who can be relied on, whether they are expensive, and how to contact them. Agents use them to carry out repairs on lettings, and as long as you trust the agent and his firm they should be able to give you decent recommendations.

You will become liable for council tax as soon as you move in, so it makes sense to contact the council and let them know straight away. While you are on, ask about rubbish collection days and recycling protocols and facilities, if you don’t know already or haven’t asked a neighbour.Bottom of Form

If there's a central heating boiler, consider getting an annual maintenance plan. You can (and should) shop around for one.  That way you won’t forget about it, and risk the heating packing up on Christmas Eve. If you did have to call out an emergency heating engineer it would cost big bucks.

You can cut your energy bills easily by improving your property’s insulation. The government has stopped funding the ‘Green Deal’ grants scheme but some providers are still offering support with certain types of improvement.  Call the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 (England), 0800 512 012 (Wales) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland).

Extra cash

Thinking of renting out a spare room for extra cash? You can earn £7,500 a year in rent before you have to pay any tax – that’s £625 a month – under the Rent a Room scheme. If you use this valuable tax break, you can’t also deduct any expenses (or mortgage interest costs) from your rental income.

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