With Britain facing it’s biggest health emergency in over 100 years we’ve all had to adapt to some unprecedented measures in 2020. Indeed it seems that we’re likely to see further restrictions well into 2021, even with the very positive news of vaccines. But, of course (at the time of writing) we have no concept of their effectiveness, who will be entitled to them or indeed, when they might even become available.

property in Harlow and Essex

Such uncertainty has, naturally, played havoc with the business world too. For us at Howick and Brooker <link>it’s been one of the strangest years we can remember. From the doom and gloom of the first and second quarter of the year sales have been extraordinarily good for us, particularly around Bury Road and the Old Town.

Nationally too, the housing market appears to be booming. According to The Guardian More than 100,000 additional house sales are expected during the first three months of 2021, as the rebound in the property market continues and buyers rush to complete their purchases before the end of thestamp duty ‘holiday’ in March 2021. Indeed, many mortgages advisors are suggesting that home buyers should put in their offers very soon as conveyancing and searches are taking much longer than usual – and completion is taking up to three months or more, meaning that many home buyers might miss the deadline.

buying a new home in 2020 or 2021 

The property website Zoopla reports that there have been 38% more new sales than this time last year and suggests that the housing market will be busier before Christmas than it has been in a decade.

So, despite the very slow start to the year the market has  rebounded because of ‘pent-up’ demand following the first lockdown. The introduction of the stamp duty holiday by Rishi Sunak, in July (on properties up to £500,000 until March 2021) has had a massive impact. Property sales have increased most in London and southern England, where 7% more sales have been recorded than in the previous year. This has also pushed up house prices too – by almost 3.5%, a figure that is set to grow by the end of the year.

when does the stamp duty holiday end?>

The housing market has had a “remarkable turnaround” since the spring, said Richard Donnell, director of research and insight at Zoopla. “It has been a rollercoaster year for the housing market which is ending on a strong note with demand and sales agreed still more than 30% higher than this time last year,”

More than 105,000 residential transactions took place last month (October), an increase of nearly 10% compared with September, and 8.1% higher than October 2019, according to figures fromHMRC <link>.

Times may be uncertain but the property market remains strong and it’s a good time to be an estate agent!


The Howick & Brooker Partnership is the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.


If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area please get in touch.

T: 01279 418888

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Let’s face it – if you’re a young, first time buyer nowadays the cards have not necessarily been stacked that favourably. Trust me, your parents had it a lot easier! Forget the majority of the hoops you have to jump through, the price of properties and (subsequently) the huge deposit you need to raise just to get a TOE on the property ladder, is enough to bring tears to your eyes!

That said, help is out there. With regards to raising the deposit money please take a look at this extremely helpful article from the Guild of Property Professionals. It this article though we’ll leave finance alone and look at 7 other tips that can help you buy that first property.

things to think about for first time buyers


Decide what you want but be flexible too…

It’s important to view different properties ,and while doing so, create a list of what you want your new home to include. Once you’ve done so divide your wish list into must-haves and things you can compromise on. This will help you to avoid making hasty decisions and get you thinking in detail about your ideal home. You need to be realistic here. Make sure you’re being serious in regards to your budget – we’d all like an en-suite and a utility room but can you afford it?

It’s important to remain flexible. There’s no point in missing out on an ideal property because it’s a mile away from your ideal location or it's missing a downstairs loo. Being open-minded is important - think outside the box – with a little creativity you can do some wonderful things with the décor of a house or the look of a garden.

Buying a house is one of the biggest purchases of your life, so take your time when making important decisions. Try to ignore the pressure to buy straight away – you’ll likely to be living in this first property for many years so make sure you’ll be happy and comfortable there.


Find the best local agent and a top solicitor

An experienced, respected local agent will be well-informed and able to answer any questions, not only about the property, but also the area you are moving into. It’s best to have a look at all the agents in your area – check out if they are registered with the Guild of Property Professionals, as that is always a good guide to respectability.

Make sure you meet your chosen agents face-to-face and explain in detail what your requirements are - this will make them remember you and think of you when a suitable property comes on the market. Look out for new properties on their website and different online portals as great homes tend to get snapped up quickly.

As for solicitors, you need someone trustworthy and someone who will work hard for you. Your estate agency may recommend one for you. Usually, you get what you pay for and this is definitely not the time to penny pinch. Being a first-time buyer, you will most likely need someone more experienced to deal with Land Registry, draw up and explaining contracts etc.

help with buying my first home


Learn more about your prospective home and prepare to negotiate

So let’s say that you’ve found your property and you’re eager to make an offer. Before you progress to the next step, make sure you learn as much as you can about your prospective new home. How long has it been on the market? Can you afford the council tax and other utilities? What about the neighbours? Are there shops or a pub nearby? Local schools? These are important things to consider even before you’ve hired a surveyor to inspect the condition of the property.

And remember the price of the property is rarely set in stone and many sellers are often willing to negotiate. If the property needs some work or your surveyor revealed any defects, use this as an argument to agree a more affordable price. You can ask the estate agent to do this for you, however, as a buyer, you will be the one making the final decision and should be in control at all times.

Enjoy the process

Buying a property will often take a LOT longer than you anticipate, so do try to enjoy the process. It is time-consuming and one of the biggest events in your life so try not to over-stretch yourself by combining it with weddings or having a baby! Buying your first home is a big step in every person’s life and should be remembered fondly. The whole process might take longer than you originally anticipated.

If you have any questions on buying your first home please don’t hesitate to get in touch!


The Howick & Brooker Partnership - is the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.

If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area pleas get in touch.

T: 01279 418888

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.







We all know that property is one of the best investments you can make – be it to utilise market growth or to generate income through rent. Here at Howick and Brooker we are regularly asked by homeowners what improvements they can make to their homes (prior to selling) in order to increase the property’s value. The rule of thumb here is to utilise what you already have and remember that additions that are too costly might not bring you much of a return when you sell, so work with what you’ve got and make it more useful for potential buyers - it’s important to think about who the most likely buyers are and to go for improvements that will be most beneficial to them. E.g.: is your home good for commuting? A Young family? First time buyers?

Here are five ideas that can add great value to your property:


Kitchen - It’s extremely fashionable nowadays to have a large, spacious kitchen (ideally with an island unit) that can be used to entertain as well as prepare food. If you only want to improve one room, then definitely concentrate on the kitchen and add a few wow-factor touches to make it stand out. According to various sources a new kitchen could give your property a value boost of up to 8% value.

ways to increase the value of my home

Bathrooms and Heating - After the kitchen, your bathroom should be next on the list for an overhaul if it’s looking dated. Choose a crisp white bathroom so it appeals to lots of people and add some ultra-stylish features to add impact. Additionally, buyers prefer at least onebathroom in a property, so if your home only has the one and the possibility exists to add a second, please do. Many Victorian cottages only have a downstairs bathroom – it’s beneficial to move this upstairs if you can. It might seem obvious, but adding central heating to a property that doesn’t already have it will help to increase its value and its appeal. For most people central heating is essential and buyers will try to offer less money if they need to have it installed.

Garden - Large gardens and particularly front gardens have become less attractive but we all love an outdoor space! What we do with it however can be important to the value of your home. Creating an ‘outdoor room’ or can add heaps of value to your property, especially if it is currently run down. Adding a deck, patio or seating area can make a lovely space for entertaining or for the family to enjoy in the spring and summer. Summer houses are welcome additions, and are often considered veryattractive when they can be utilised as a playroom or office. They effectively add an additional room to your property

Conservatories are another great way to add square footage to your property and they’re excellent if added next to your dining area or kitchen to increase the size of that shared, family space. A good quality conservatory is imperative – ideally with proper insulation – if the room is either too hot or too cold it willput potential buyers off. A  conservatory could put up to 15% onto the value of your home.

how can I sell mu home in Essex?> 


Conversions - Speaking of extensions and additions do you really need that garage? Most people would much prefer an extra reception room, so if you can get permission it’s well worth converting the garage to add square footage to your home. Depending on where it’s located it can also make a fantastic playroom or home office.The loft is another often unused space and can make a stunning extra bedroom – please make sure you have permission to convert! A converted loft can add up to 20% onto a property’s value. Even boarding out a loft space is beneficial.

Add parking space - Having somewhere to park the car is a big plus for most buyers. Parking spots are becoming even scarcer, making them especially valuable. Even if your buyers don’t drive, they will value the space for when family and friends come to visit. If you don’t already have parking, but do have a front garden, consider paving part of it to create off-road parking.  You might have to apply to have the kerb dropped, but it is worth investigating.

Before undertaking any major work such as an extension, you can consult your local Guild Member to ask for their advice on property values. And please undertake careful research re costs before undertaking any substantial alterations. Good luck!


The Howick & Brooker Partnership - is the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.


If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area please get in touch.

T: 01279 418888

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.






We’ve all seen the numerous programmes on daytime TV, where savvy business people and/or keen amateurs buy run down houses and ‘flip’ them for a sizable profit. We may even know friends who do this professionally or as a bit of a hobby. It seems a very attractive way to earn a substantial one off payment, or even a living, and these shows make it seem so simple! What could possibly go wrong?

tips on renovating a house

Well, it NOT simple naturally, and there are a myriad considerations to take into account. Here’s a quick guide to some important things to consider before you embark on a renovation project of your own. Please remember that this is NOT exhaustive! If you’d like any more detailed advice please get in touch.


Choosing the Right Property

Properties in need of renovation go on the market in two ways:

  • Through auction (please take a look at our guide here.
  • Through an estate agent

It is wise to contact estate agencies in your chosen areas, making it clear that you are interested buying a renovation project. That way agents will alert you when suitable properties come to the market, you will are the first person they call when they take on a relevant property.

Auctions require less waiting but they can be more competitive. Unconverted properties are highly sought-after by investors so guide prices can quickly be exceeded.


Check, Check, Check!

  • Is the property listed or in a conservation area? Certain parts of Old Harlow for example, (near our offices) are in a conservation area, meaning that fencing or exterior appearances cannot be altered.
  • Have a chat with any neighbours before your plans are drawn up. This will save unnecessary objections later and you may also find out stories of previous renovations in the area, and what has been approved and/or rejected.
  • Research the area. What are similar properties selling for when they are in good condition? Could you achieve even more with a new, clean finish? How long does it take for properties of this type to sell?
  • Don’t renovate without the relevant plans or consent – councils are well within their rights to removed buildings that have been changed without permission.


flipping a house – where do I start?

Before You Start….

  • A lot. Many ‘flipped’ properties are inadequately planned, which can lead to higher costs and a lower-quality finish. Making changes part way through the work will mean certain steps have to be re-done. It is worth hiring the services of a professional at this stage.
  • Consult professionals before you start renovating: town planners, contractors, attorney, project managers, and the bank.
  • Investigate funding options. Work out how much money you have to spend and where it is coming from. Also consider an emergency backup fund in case the project runs into difficulties, such as requiring a new roof or boiler.
  • Unless you absolutely have to (or you’re a professional builder yourself), don’t complete the work yourself. A lack of professional can lead to a poorer quality finish.
  • Don’t under estimate how much work and energy is required. Even if you’re not doing the work yourself, organizing contractors and making endless decisions is very tiring.


Once you’ve Started

  • Get three quotes for every job to ensure that you are getting a good price.
  • Sometimes offering tradespeople a bonus if they complete work on time (or even early) can be beneficial. Regardless being polite and friendly to your tradespeople is obviously beneficial.

decorating your home for a quick sale 

Finishing touches

  • Who is your buyer? If they expect luxury, spend a lot, if they’re a first-time buyers, basic appliances will be acceptable.
  • Decorate to a high level but keep it neutral. This means the buyers are able to put their own stamp on the home. White walls are a must.
  • Instruct a Guild agent to sell the home. These are local property experts who know the market, so they can advise on the best time to sell.

If you need further help, get in touch with your local Estate agent to explain your plans, ask for advice, and remember to invite them around for a valuation when the project is completed. They can also give guidance on the types of properties that are most popular at the moment.


The Howick & Brooker Partnership is the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.


If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area pleas get in touch.

T: 01279 418888

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


So, you’re looking to move – perhaps you’ve found your dream home or location already or perhaps you’re simply ‘testing the water’ to see how much interest your own property might generate. Either way marketing your property at the right price is really important. 

how much is my house worth?

Rumour and gossip is always rife in neighbourhoods when it comes to property value. We’ve all heard stories of a ‘Joe’s house that only went for £xxxxx’, or ‘Susan’s place, which is smaller than yours, was sold for a whopping £xxxx!’ And to a point it’s crucial to start by doing some research into properties recently sold in your area to get an idea of how much you could expect to achieve. But remember there are always variables. Joe’s house may have had structural problems and Susan’s might have been wonderfully decorated and had a new extension, for example.

Before inviting an agent to value your property, take a look at our online valuation tool to get an idea of an estimated value.

best local agent in Harlow

So, who to use? Well, it’s common wisdom that you should use an agency with a good amount of local knowledge. A valuation will take a lot into consideration, including market conditions and a knowledge of the local area and recent sales. This is before the evaluation of your property – it’s condition, any additions or features etc.

A reputable agent will be objective when it comes to appraising your property, so try not to be too emotionally involved. The valuation should be based upon the property and not on the financial investments you have made over the years. So don’t be tempted to choose an agency based solely on the highest valuation. An agent may suggest a higher price to win your business, for example.  And remember, overpricing your house is very likely to deter prospective buyers – people are unlikely to arrange a viewing if the price seems over-priced. An over priced property is very likely to be on the market for a long time – which can cause frustration and cost you money in the long term.

If you do receive an offer, the buyer’s lender will discover if the house is over-priced anyway, and will probably refuse them a loan.


Find a reputable, local agent who will give you a reasonable and realistic valuation. And good luck!!!


The Howick & Brooker Partnership is the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.  

If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area pleas get in touch.

T: 01279 418888

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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