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Blog | butters john bee Estate & Letting Agents

Jan 25, 2023 What is a studio flat, and should you choose a studio or one bedroom flat?

If you are looking for a flat to rent and you only need one bedroom, you don’t necessarily need a one bedroom flat. If your budget is tight, or the area you want to live is expensive, a studio flat or studio apartment could be ideal. What is the difference between a studio flat and one bedroom flat? The main difference is that a studio flat has a single living space, with a separate bathroom, whereas a one bedroom flat has the bedroom in a separate room to the living area or lounge. Studio flats are usually smaller than one bedroom flats (but not always). In a studio flat the main living area will be arranged so that there is usually enough room for a bed, wardrobe and storage units, a lounge space for a sofa, coffee table and dining table, a kitchen or kitchenette. What should you consider when choosing a studio flat or one bedroom flat Advantages of a studio flat The main benefit is that the rental charge for studio flats will be lower than one bedroom flats of a similar standard and specification. Studio flats also tend to have a more spacious feel than one bedroom apartments. Another advantage is that studio flat tenants will usually have lower energy bills than those in one bedroom flats because there is a smaller space to heat. Never underestimate the fact it is also less space to clean! Advantages of a one bedroom flat The main advantage of a one bedroom flat is that the flat will have a more conventional floor plan, with the bedroom being in a separate room to the living room and kitchen. This gives more privacy for people living there. A couple, for example, could have different work patterns, so may have to sleep during times when their partner is at home in the living area. A one bedroom flat will usually mean a larger area for storage space too. Renting a studio flat Studio flat layout The common layout of a studio flat is composed of a main living space with a kitchen area or kitchenette, and a separate bathroom. People renting a studio often divide up the living space into separate areas by using things like floor to ceiling bookcases, room divider curtains or sliding doors. What is the minimum size for a studio flat? By law a studio flat has to be 70 square feet to house one tenant, and two tenants require minimum floor space of 110 square feet. A typical studio flat is around 250 square feet. The largest studio flats (excluding loft apartments) are usually about 600 square feet. Are all bills included with a studio flat? Sometimes landlords include all bills in the rental for a studio flat, but not always. Check with the letting agent whether bills like gas, electric, water and council tax are all-inclusive. Different types of studio flat What is a self-contained studio flat? If accommodation is described as a ‘self-contained studio flat’, it means it is a single room with living space, kitchen and bathroom facilities self-contained within it. There are no shared facilities, but these kind of studio flats are likely to be much smaller than a typical studio. The ‘bathroom’ in a self-contained studio is likely to just be part of the single accommodation unit, rather than a separate room. What is a semi studio flat? A ‘semi-studio flat’ is a term increasingly used by letting agents to describe accommodation that is significantly smaller than an average studio flat or self-contained studio flat, but usually with the same basic elements. Some semi-studios are too small to have a sink, toilet and shower, so you may have to share bathroom facilities with other tenants of the building. Making the right choice for you If you want to know more about renting a studio flat or the types of studio flat Howards have available, talk to our expert team today!

Jan 25, 2023 What does sold STC (subject to contract) mean?

Sold STC (subject to contract) is when a seller has accepted an offer to buy their property, but before exchange of contracts. The estate agent should take the property off the market, put up a ‘Sold: STC’ sign outside the property and describe the property in online listings as ‘Sold STC’. There is, however, nothing legally binding about ‘Sold STC’ in England and Wales. It is an informal acceptance. Buyer and seller can both change their minds. If higher offers come in, an estate agent is legally obliged to pass them on to the seller. The buyer can also renegotiate the price or withdraw their interest in buying the property. It is only when contracts are exchanged that the purchase becomes legally binding. What is the difference between ‘under offer’ and ‘sold STC’’? When a property that is up for sale is described as being ‘under offer’, it means that an offer has been made by a prospective buyer. The sellers are considering it but not yet decided whether to accept it. Buyers can still make other offers. ‘Sold STC’ means that an offer has been accepted but contracts have yet to be exchanged. How long does sold STC take? There are no hard and fast rules for the length of time the sold (subject to contract) stage takes in the buying process. It will take as long as the financial and administrative aspects of the conveyancing process take to be put in place – such as the survey, the searches, the mortgage application, itemising the fixtures and fittings in the property. This might take anything between 6-12 weeks depending on the complexity of any issues found. Could the sale of a property sold STC fall through? Yes. There is nothing guaranteed about a property completing after it has sold STC. In fact 25% of all prospective purchases that reach under offer or Sold STC fall through. ‘Gazumping’ is a very real practice and there is nothing illegal about it. Sellers can still consider higher offers than the one they have accepted. Buyers can withdraw their original offer if the survey reveals a major problem with the building or a legal search has revealed planning issues about the area. Can you still live in a house sold STC? No, you can’t move into a house while it is still at the Sold STC stage. Contracts must have been exchanged and completed. When contracts are exchanged deposits are paid and there are major legal and financial implications in either buyer or seller pulling out. Protection from sold STC issues Because there is nothing legally binding about the ‘Sold (subject to contract)’ status, buyers and sellers have the freedom to do whatever they want up to the point when contracts are exchanged. Neither has more legal protection than the other while the property is still only Sold STC. Let butters john bee help you find your next home We are dedicated to helping people buy a property. For more advice on the buying process, contact butters john bee today.

Jan 25, 2023 How to increase rental yield

There are many things a landlord can do to increase rental yields. It might involve spending some money on their properties, but in the long term it may provide opportunities to legitimately increase rents and boost annual yields. What is rental yield? Rental yield is the annual rental income, divided by the total property investment a landlord has made, expressed as a percentage. Anywhere between 5%-8% is generally considered a good rental yield. Calculating rental yield The easiest way to calculate gross rental yield is to divide the rental income you receive from a property (let’s say £1000 per month X 12 = £12,000) by the price you paid to buy the property, then multiplying this figure by 100 to end with a percentage. So if the property cost £250,000, the gross rental yield would be 4.8%. However, landlords also need to factor in all the other expenses involved in letting the property. This will be the costs of maintenance, marketing and managing the property, including mortgage repayments and insurance premiums. These need to be totalled up over a year and added to the purchase price. So the net rental yield (the yield in real terms) will be lower than the gross figure. Top tips to improve rental yield Boosting your rental yield is an important consideration for landlords. It could be the difference between making money from letting a property or not. But you should also think about the long term impact of decisions you make and how they will affect your tenants. There are lots of things to mull over as you consider how to increase rental yield. Invest wisely Investing in property requires a lot of research, hard work, and dedication. With each new purchase you will become more experienced and better equipped for the next investment. Nevertheless, it is always important to treat every new property as a business decision by carefully studying each potential investment as well as negotiating where possible in order to maximise your return. Review your outgoings The first place to start when thinking about improving rental yield is to look at your fixed costs. These are costs like your mortgage payments, insurance premiums and leasehold fees. Shop around to see if you can get a better deal on your mortgage and buildings insurance. Invest in up-and-coming areas Look at where the best locations are to achieve greater rental yields. Where are the up and coming towns and cities, with planned regeneration and government investment? Major infrastructure projects (such as HS2 and Crossrail) can give some areas a real boost, with the prospect of increased capital growth and greater rental values for the future. University towns and cities are also locations where yields can be significantly higher. Properties can be rented by multiple tenants who share facilities but are not part of the same household. These are called HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupation). The drawback of HMOs for landlords is that there will be a higher turnover of tenants. Re-assess the rent you’re charging The easy solution for improving rental yield is to charge a higher monthly rent to your tenants. However, it might not always be reasonable or fair to do so. Ask a letting agent to assess the market rate for similar properties in the local area – you might be charging less than you could, or you could actually be over-charging. Rent review clauses in tenancy agreements give you the option of charging a different rate of rent during a tenancy. Refurbish/redecorate your property Make sure the condition of your property justifies any increases in rent you may be considering. Refurbishing and redecorating your property could also help in establishing long term tenancies, as it will show that you care about your tenants and encourages them in turn to treat the property with more respect. Doing some repainting, replacing carpets and giving bathrooms and kitchens an update could make tenants feel happier about paying a higher monthly rent. Aim for long-term tenants One of the best ways to increase rental yield and reduce your outgoings is to have the same tenants staying in the property for a significant amount of time. You won’t have the one-off costs involved in changing tenants regularly, or the maintenance expenses that are likely to be involved with a high tenant turnover. You can try and secure more long term tenants by being diligent with your tenant referencing process, looking after the property well and fostering good relationships with the tenants. Consider allowing pets To make your property more appealing and unique, you could become pet-friendly. The number of rental properties that allow pets is getting fewer and fewer, especially since the Tenants Fee Act limits the power of landlords to charge a higher deposit to cover potential damage. But prospective tenants who know they won’t be separated from their pets could be wiling to pay a higher rent as a premium. Improve the energy efficiency rating Making your property more energy efficient will also help to reduce energy bills, and perhaps make your tenants more willing to pay that little bit extra. It can be used as a selling point, if tenants can look forward to living in a warmer house that costs less to heat. Have you got the opportunity to extend your property? Not all landlords will have this option, but if there is space you could look at adding more rentable rooms, or increasing the living space. An attic could be turned into another bedroom, for example. Find out more about haart letting property management If you have a property to let, we can help with a range of property management services, advice and information about the lettings process.

Jan 25, 2023 What is a sitting tenant and what are their rights?

What are the Rights of a Sitting Tenant When a Property is Sold? You may have heard the term ‘sitting tenant’ and wondered what it means. Here we explain what rights a sitting tenant has, how a sitting tenant may affect a property sale, and the choices landlords have if they are buying or selling a property with a sitting tenant. What does 'sitting tenant' mean? A sitting tenant, or ‘tenant in situ’, is a tenant that is still living in the property when it is sold by a landlord. This could be because a tenancy agreement is still in place. Buyers can respect the tenants’ right to remain living in the property. But a seller may choose to evict the tenants, if they are able to do so, because the selling price will be negatively affected with a tenant in situ. What rights do sitting tenants have? Sitting tenants do have rights. If they have an ongoing tenancy agreement with the landlord who is selling the property, they have the right to remain residing there even after the sale. In the unlikely event that the tenancy began before January 1989, the sitting tenants can exercise their rights to ‘security of tenure’ under the Rent Act 1977. In these cases, tenants can remain in the property even after their agreement has expired or been terminated. A landlord has to prove they have ‘ground for possession’ for a pre-January 1989 tenancy in order to evict the tenant. However, there will be few tenants today with such a long standing agreement. Most tenancies these days are assured shorthold tenancies, which gives a landlord the right to use an eviction notice, even for a sitting tenant. Buying a property with sitting tenants If you are buying a property which has sitting tenants, the price you pay will be lower than similar properties which are sold with vacant possession. So if you want to save some money on the purchase this is a great way of doing so. However, you may struggle to get a mortgage offer on a property with sitting tenants, so this might only be an option for cash buyers. You could just wait until the tenancy has come to an end or the tenants have been evicted. Are you buying with a view to letting out the property anyway? Many landlords prefer to have a sitting tenant in the property they are buying, especially if they are long term tenants. It saves the hassle and expense of finding a new tenant, and continuing with a long term tenant is a much less risky option. The new landlord usually takes over the ownership of the tenancy agreement after the property sale. Selling a property with tenants in situ Landlords who are selling a property with sitting tenants may find it difficult, but not impossible. If they allow their tenants to remain in residence, the buyers of the property are likely to struggle to get a mortgage and proceed with the purchase. However, sales with sitting tenants are on the increase. If the sale does go through, the selling price will be lower with sitting tenants. If the landlord chooses to evict the tenant, the sale may be saved or run more smoothly, but rental income will be lost for the time it takes for the sale to complete. Frequently asked questions What qualifies you as a sitting tenant? Sitting tenants are those that have a tenancy agreement or agreement with a landlord in place at the time a decision is made to sell the property they are living in. You have more rights as a sitting tenant if your tenancy began before January 1989. Can you evict a sitting tenant? If you prefer to have vacant possession of the property, to live in the property yourself, or want to find new tenants, you have the right to evict the sitting tenants with a Section 21 notice. Do sitting tenants have the right to buy? Sitting tenants or tenants in situ do not have an automatic right to buy the property they are living in, unless it is a property owned by a local authority. Can you increase the rent of a sitting tenant? Normal sitting tenants have the same rights to fair rent as any other tenants. Landlords can only increase the rent when an existing tenancy agreement expires, unless the tenancy agreement has a rent review clause. If the sitting tenant has security of tenure (explained above), a landlord can only request to put the rent up through a review process. This can only be undertaken every two years, and has to be carried out by a Rent Officer. Find out more about Howards' letting property management If you have a property to let, we can help with a range of property management services, advice and information about the lettings process.

Dec 23, 2022 Spicerhaart's generosity: a Disneyland trip for a family in need

The family of a courageous young child battling a rare disease expresses profound gratitude to charity leaders for facilitating a magical trip to Disneyland Paris, creating enduring memories. Emily Mills, aged five, was among sixteen children and their families selected for the recent excursion orchestrated by Magic Moments, the dedicated charity affiliated with Spicerhaart, the UK's largest independent estate agency. Magic Moments orchestrates regular trips to Disneyland for children facing life-limiting illnesses and their families, garnering over £1 million in donations since its inception in 1998. The December adventure marked the third trip organised in 2022, with nearly 200 individuals transported to France for an unforgettable experience. Emily, diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy, embarked on the journey accompanied by her parents, Catherine and Gareth, and her older sister Rosie, residing in Peterborough. Catherine, initially apprehensive about the trip despite accepting the invitation, extends heartfelt appreciation to the trustees of Magic Moments for curating a holiday of unparalleled significance. She reflects on the profound impact of the trip, forging enduring bonds and creating cherished moments as a family. “Our family, solely down to Magic Moments, has made lifelong memories and bonded together beyond our wildest dreams,” she said. “We laughed, played, and actually became kids again and allowed ourselves to enjoy everything. Rosie saw her mum and dad be spontaneous for the first time since Emily was born. Emily got to ride the carousel as many times as she wanted because she loves horses. Rosie got to be a kid in a magical kingdom, without a care in the world which is something I will treasure forever. This is a gift that goes way beyond a holiday to Disney. It is a gift that brought us back together as a family, united us, and allowed us to be us again for which we are eternally grateful.” Emma Barber, Chair of Magic Moments, echoes Catherine's sentiments, emphasising the charity's commitment to creating transformative experiences for families facing adversity "The experience Emily and her family had is exactly what Magic Moments strives to achieve on these trips. Feedback like this makes all the time and effort everyone puts in well worth it. Thank you to everyone at Spicerhaart who has raised money and supported Magic Moments especially in such difficult economic times, your efforts and donations ensure we can continue to provide these trips."

Dec 13, 2022 Spicerhaart unveils exciting initiative to support Magic Moments

Spicerhaart, the UK's largest independent estate agency group headquartered in Colchester, Essex, has initiated a new project focused on charity clothes recycling. This project allows staff to contribute pre-loved clothes, which can then be claimed by colleagues in exchange for a donation to Magic Moments, the company's in-house charity. Magic Moments supports children and their families during challenging times with an unforgettable trip to Disneyland Paris. Any remaining unclaimed items will be donated to the local homeless charity, Beacon House. Pippa Major, a Magic Moments Board Member and Operations Manager & Business Analyst to the Group Managing Director at Spicerhaart, highlighted the significance of the initiative. She said "Our Spicerhaart family have been donating preloved clothes, so that others can enjoy them, which is incredibly important for the sustainability of our planet. We are helping the environment by reducing our carbon emissions, reducing unnecessary use of water and energy whilst both minimising our contributions to landfill and incinerators. It’s our way of educating and ensuring that our family are conscious consumers, while supporting our own charity at the same time. We’re also encouraging them to bring in other items, such as books, which people can enjoy in their breaks, and household groceries which may otherwise go to waste.” Spicerhaart is actively exploring ways to extend similar initiatives to accommodate staff working remotely or across branches nationwide. Antony Lark, Spicerhaart Group Managing Director, expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative, stating "As a company we take our responsibilities to protect our environment seriously and I am delighted to see initiatives like this really come to life. What’s particularly pleasing is how these ideas have been generated by individuals. Pippa, as an example, has shown great passion for this and it is going to be a huge success in so many ways.”

Sep 27, 2022 Stamp duty reforms 2022. What’s changed?

butters john bee has welcomed the Government's ‘mini-budget’, which will bring significant benefits to the housing market. On the 23rd September 2022, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced cuts to stamp duty in the government’s mini-budget, by increasing the amount at which buyers in England and Northern Ireland will begin paying duty from £125,000 to £250,000. For first-time buyers, this threshold is now £425,000 and discounted stamp duty will apply up to £625,000. What is stamp duty? When you purchase a property or land, you are required to pay a form of tax called ‘Stamp Duty Land Tax’ (SDLT). The amount you pay can depend on the price of the property, the location of the property, whether you’re a first-time buyer or if you’re a UK resident. Stamp duty for first time buyers People buying their first property can often be put off by having to pay stamp duty on top of their deposit, as well other property purchase related fees like conveyancers, property searches, etc. To help first-time buyers, the government has raised the amount they can spend on a property without having to pay stamp duty. First time buyers will now not have to pay stamp duty if their first home costs less than £425,000, which is an increase of £125,000 on the previous level. However, if a first-time buyer does purchase a property that costs more that £425,000, they will be entitled to relief. This means first time buyers purchasing property above the new threshold will pay 5% stamp duty land tax on properties up to £625,000, which is an increase of £125,000 from the previous limit. What are the new stamp duty rates for first time buyers? If you’re buying your first property in England or Northern Ireland from 23rd September 2022, you’ll have to pay the following rates for stamp duty: Property Value  SDLT Rate £0 - £425,000 0% £425,001 - £625,000 5% £625,001 - £925,000 8% £925,001 - £1,500,000 10% £1,500,001+ 12% How does the 2022 stamp duty reform help? The new measures taken by the government will reduce the amount of stamp duty for all property purchases by up to £2,500, with first time buyers also now able to access up to £11,250 in relief. This reformed policy will be a welcome tax-cut for the majority of people purchasing a new (or first) property as they will be able to keep more of their money for additional house renovations or other expenses. This new tax cut will also help increase household purchases and in turn boost confidence in economic growth. What are the new stamp duty rates for non-first time buyers? If you’re not a first time buyer in England or Northern Ireland, from 23rd September 2022 you’ll have to pay the following rates of stamp duty: Property Value SDLT Rate £0 - £250,000 0% £250,001 - £925,000 5% £925,001 - £1,500,000 10% £1,500,001+ 12% Our Senior Team’s View Paul Smith, CEO Commenting on the mini-budget, CEO Paul Smith said: “I’m delighted that Liz Truss is following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher and understands the economy is fuelled by a healthy property market. “Thatcher once said that she wanted a capital-earning democracy, which housing was the start of, and if you’re a man or woman of property, you’ve got something.  “I absolutely agree, and clearly the new Prime Minister does, too. “This mini-budget from Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is revolutionary on stamp duty - cutting it permanently, and not just introducing a holiday with a spurious deadline, is a massive boost for the market. “This will give a massive confidence boost for those now wishing to sell. “I am also pleased to see that our hard-working colleagues will benefit from a cut in the basic rate of income tax to help them with the cost-of-living crisis – Howards is nothing without our brilliant people.” Antony Lark, Senior Managing Director Group Managing Director, Antony Lark welcomed the stamp duty changes. “This is an extremely positive move and will assist so many people in getting on the housing ladder,” he said. “The fact that this is a permanent change will help ensure we avoid the cliff edge type environment we have recently lived through. “Owning your own home is such an important aspiration for so many and it’s so positive to see the government look to support this to help grow the economy.” Tim Wardley, Managing Director of Land and New Homes Managing Director of Land and New Homes, Tim Wardley added that the 38 investment zones mooted in the so-called ‘Kwasi Budget’ will generate significant growth, thanks to business tax cuts and a fast track on planning applications. He said: “This is great news for our industry right across a board at a time the market has slowed. “The planning system is completely clogged up and anything which can get more houses built is a winner for everyone - buyers, people selling land and developers alike. “The stamp duty cut is also a game changer which begins now and carries on indefinitely, meaning no waiting for start dates or need to hit deadlines. “It’s now time for us to grab this opportunity and make the most of it.” Contact your local butters john bee branch If the latest stamp duty cuts have prompted you to take the next steps in your property journey, get in touch with your local butters john bee branch today and we’ll get the ball rolling. We can help you get on the property ladder, find your next home, or if you have a property to sell too, we can offer free no-obligation valuation. [form id="d306dece-a95c-11ee-9126-6aee4e67df98"]

Aug 2, 2022 A Complete Guide to the costs of Buying a Property

Costs to Consider when Purchasing a Property Purchasing a new property can quickly become more expensive than originally expected. There are some costs which can be overlooked, which can add to the total costs and skew your budget. Former renters are often surprised at how much more it costs to buy a property and without the correct preparation, you might find it a difficult process. But that’s where Howards can help. This guide will take you through all the costs that come with buying property and help you to get your budget in perfect order. Deposit This is the first thing you will save up for. It’s the amount of money that you will put towards the cost of the property and it averages from 5% to 20% of its price. For example, you might pay as little as £10k or as much as £40k on a £200k property. Getting this money together is you first step to being ready to find and purchase your home. Mortgage broker fees A mortgage broker is a financial adviser that specialises in mortgages. They will show you the best products (mortgages) available to you and they work for you, not the lender. This makes them a knowledgeable and trustworthy source of information. Some mortgage brokers don’t charge a fee, while others charge between a few hundred pounds or up to 1% of your mortgage. Looking for expert mortgage advice, speak to one of our Just Mortgages advisers to see what mortgage deals you could be eligible for. Conveyancing This is the name given to the legal procedure of buying a property. Conveyancing fees include search fees and joining the Land Registry. The Land Registry is a government department that keeps records of all registered properties in England and Wales. You can either hire a property solicitor or licensed conveyancer. The cost will depend on the value of the property you’re purchasing and what searches you’ve completed. Its costs can range from £800 - £1500 and are more for leasehold homes. Valuation fees Your mortgage lender will conduct a valuation survey. This doesn’t look at the condition of the property but is produced for the lender who wants to know the property is worth at least what they are lending you. Some lenders don’t charge a mortgage valuation fee but if they do, they are usually around £200. Surveys/valuations These can add up quickly, ranging from a couple hundred pounds to over £1,000, depending on the value of the property. Stamp duty This is the tax that is levied on legal documents and can add as much as 7% extra to the total cost of buying a property. First time buyers do not have to pay Stamp Duty on properties that are valued under £425,000 in England and Northern Ireland. This is slightly different in Scotland and Wales. For a full breakdown of Stamp Duty, visit gov.uk. Buildings Insurance This is an insurance policy that pays the cost of repair or rebuild in the event of your property being destroyed or damaged from things such as: subsidence falling trees fire, smoke, explosions car and lorry collisions water damage from leaking pipes This needs to be purchased before completion of your new property. The average cost of a policy (as of 2018) is £111 a year. Mortgage fees On top of your standard mortgage, there are other up-front mortgage fees that need to be considered: Arrangement fees: these are often charged by mortgage companies and range from just a few hundred pounds to 1% of the mortgage value. Some lenders prefer it being paid up front, others may add it to the mortgage. Be sure to check Indemnity fees: usually if you had a high loan-to-value ratio, the lender might charge a fee that covers the insurance they take out in case you can’t pay back your loan. Fortunately, many lenders won’t charge these fees even for those borrowing a hefty amount of the purchase price, even up to 90%. Transfer fees There is a fee for transferring the mortgage deposit from your lender (mortgage provider) to your solicitor. However, it’s usually no more than £50. Removals If you don’t have much furniture and have some generous friends, this can be done at little cost. If you do have a lot of furniture, hiring a removals firm is your best bet. It can be costly, but with the right research you can select a company that best meets your needs and budget. Check out our blog on selecting a removals firm for more advice on this. After the move Once you’re moved in to your new home, there are some ongoing costs to consider too: Insurance – to protect the contents of your home Council tax – an ongoing monthly payment that is determined by the location of your property Maintenance and repairs – Any work done will need to be budgeted for Utilities – these are your bills for energy, water etc. shop around for the best deals Leaseholder costs – if you purchase a leasehold property you may have to pay additional fees to maintain the grounds or external building. These are some extra fees that might creep up on you: Mail redirection Starting at £33.99 for three months Child or pet care on moving day Around £50 Cleaning costs for previous property. This depends on the depth of the clean and size of the property, but can range from £120 - £250 Looking for your family’s next home? butters john bee invests in the people and technology to get you moved smarter and faster (and with more cash in your pocket when you have). Find your new home here.