If you are looking at buying a property, renovating an older house can be a great way to get your foot on the property ladder. Run-down and in some cases derelict properties are often a bargain and provide the maximum potential for profit – if carefully selected. However, renovations can be risky, especially for first-time buyers.
You may be interested in buying, you might be preparing to sell – or you may just want to make some long overdue improvements. Unlike cosmetic changes – new units in the kitchen, a new shower in the bathroom, or new carpet in the living room, home renovations usually involve major changes to a building.
These changes may have structural implications such as taking out a load bearing wall and can often require planning approval. With all this comes stress and expense.
The key to doing a home renovation, without breaking the bank and with it, your heart – Is understanding where you should start and what elements you should prioritise as you move forward with the project.
To help you with this process I have put together some brief but essential handy home renovation pointers useful for anyone considering a renovation project which will hopefully provide you with a sense of direction as you move forward.
1. Develop a plan
Assess the building, what you’d like to renovate that includes deciding where to start and making sure you have the time and the budget needed to get the work done. I believe some essential points to consider in this planning phase are;
Assess the building’s current condition. For those buying you will want to use a surveyor to provide a building report (a report will likely be a mortgage condition) which will identify any essential repairs and further investigations.
Those renovating their existing home should still consider commissioning a surveyor getting in specialists to look into any areas of concern. The building report will reveal the type of construction used across different parts of the house. This will affect the type and extent of any alterations that can be made and the materials and techniques that are appropriate.
It is also essential to get a measured survey of the building. This is an exact scale drawing of the layout of the building and is likely to be needed as part of any planning applications.
If the building has been vacant for some time or is derelict, you may need to secure the site, prevent further decay if required and ensure the building is weathertight, so considering potential costs associated with this is important.
It may be a good idea to contact your insurer to make sure you have the coverage in place required for your renovation project.
Have as full an understanding as possible at this stage of what permissions may be required for the work you want to do including;
Listed building consent
Sometimes applications can take several months so If you want to start work immediately, it will be best to take on projects that do not require planning consent. If you are building near a boundary you should also check if your work is affected by the Party Wall Act. It is also wise to get your solicitor to check your title deeds or lease, for any restrictions to development of the property.
2. Set a Budget
When you have committed to the renovation, are clear what it is you want to do and understand issues that might arise, come up with a final number on how much you want to comfortably spend on the renovation.
It will be a good idea to spend some time researching to see how much average projects cost, either online or by asking a family member, friend or colleague with similar experience.
Consider budgeting an extra 10 to 20 percent for unexpected costs that may arise.
You need to set a number that you won’t go above and stick to it. Even with a budget for unexpected costs, you might still find yourself in the position of paying through the nose to cover some nasty surprise that could not have been reasonably foreseen by a surveyor.
If it is a renovation to a derelict or heavily damaged property you will want to consider appointing an architect, who will provide you with a full costing.
3. Consider appointing a Contractor
Unless the work you are planning Is incredibly straightforward, or you – the person who will be doing the renovation work – has experience in construction, I advise appointing a contractor. It is true that this will be a more expensive option in the short-term, but long-term it will work out cheaper for one simple reason – the contractor understands the work and what order to do it in, to arrive at an end result in as short a time as possible. A contractor will be able to advise you on your plans and help you achieve your desired renovation within an agreed budget.
We have all heard stories of cowboy builders and shoddy workmanship but there are resources available to help you find someone reliable such as;
MyBuilder – This service allows customers to post jobs with contractors providing quotes. The site vets the qualifications, technical knowledge and professionalism of traders and allows the customer to post reviews.
Checkatrade – This is a commercial directory of 29,000 vetted traders who pay to be listed, must pass a face-to-face interview and provide a minimum of five references. Qualifications and public liability insurance are also examined.
Trustmark – This is a government-endorsed scheme intended to raise standards among tradespeople, currently, around 12,500 businesses are on the site. Traders have to sign up to a code of conduct and undergo background checks on their identity and business.
If you choose a contractor from a source such as those above you will have confidence moving forward with the renovation work. Yes, you can do it yourself and if you do be realistic about the amount of time and effort which will be required to see it through.
If you are looking at buying a ‘fixer upper’ at least get a survey before you do anything else, it may be the best £500 you ever spend. Whatever the type of renovation – always sit down and plan it out, set a budget and stick to it. If contractors come back with quotes double your budget then you know its not the right time.
Finally, appoint a contractor, if you go through a service such as MyBuilder or Checkatrade, you will save yourself so much time and hassle.