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How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

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jwl83
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How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

#190654

Postby jwl83 » January 2nd, 2019, 7:17 pm

First time buyer here, looking for more advice (my last thread was about probate property)... The area I want to buy in is polarised regarding property condition - houses are either very expensively finished (to a standard possibly higher than I need and commanding a price premium I'd really avoid swallowing) or "require renovation" (in many cases, the electrics / heating / windows / structure are all fine, it's mainly dated decoration).

On a property I'm interested in, the price is set so that I'd have some budget available to go a bit further than re-decorate and add a small extension and/or convert the loft to make the layout work better. If I were to do this, I'd like to get this out of the way at the same time as the re-decoration before I move in (if it turns out to be within budget) as it would save hassle later on and may slightly reduce the cost versus doing things in stages after moving in. (I appreciate there's a whole other consideration on whether this could turn into too big a job to do with little experience, or whether it will add value compared to directly buying a property that's "finished", but I'm considering those separately).

My query is how best to price up / plan the work needed before I offer and/or exchange and who best to get involved. For this kind of work, should I check for recommendations on a local builder that would be prepared to visit the site and estimate (and add my own optimism bias to the numbers)? Or should I be looking for someone else? Structural engineer? Quantity surveyor? A builder feels like the default option - just looking for neutral opinions/experiences on other people to get involved at this stage.

My expectation is the work I'm looking at will be Permitted development. Does anyone have experience of starting the process of applying for a lawful development certificate or starting the party wall agreement processes before completion (i.e. once exchange of contracts happens). Any pitfalls I should be aware of? (I appreciate things may not go to plan and these may be academic questions). My reason for considering this is to keep my overlapping period of renting to a minimum (~3 months) if possible.

JonE
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Re: How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

#191012

Postby JonE » January 4th, 2019, 1:37 pm

jwl83 wrote:My expectation is the work I'm looking at will be Permitted development.


This does not take proposed works outside the scope of Building Regulations. For example, converting a loft to habitable space (rather than what is really just storage space without a Building Regs certificate) will work out much more expensive than you'd initially suppose.

Whether you can achieve any form of access between exchange and completion (even for a vacant property) is down to the vendor and whether they are prepared to grant a 'keys agreement' or the like. Hoping to take a builder round on three occasions before you even make an offer (you surely won't accept just one quote) is, shall we say, 'optimistic'. Whether a vendor will allow you to keep popping round depends on how keen they are to sell to you and what competition you face. They may expect a second viewing to lead to an offer or a walk-away - not a drawing-out of the whole stressful process. Whether it's their home or they're selling as executors, they are likely to get fed up with you and to prefer equivalent offers from someone who will cause them minimum hassle and just crack on with the process. Neighbours may be unwilling to deal with you until you have completed and are in possession - I would if in their shoes.

Your 'small extension' may involve extending the drainage: Building Regs would apply. It will certainly involve adding to the electrical system: I've found that electricians really don't like certifying anything that they haven't done themselves (understandably) so may insist on re-working existing wiring.

I'm surprised you've found a refurb opportunity. I still have the impression that 'needs some modernising' properties still fetched sums that were discounted from the norm by much less than the cost of conducting works to bring them to that norm. When it came to places for my own occupation I'd brief my usual builder on what I had in mind and take him on my third viewing (having made all the right noises on previous visits) to form an opinion on the difficulties that the structure and site may present. I then lived in the place for a while to understand how it worked as a machine for my own purposes before drawing up the plans for the project (which often varied significantly from the original concept).

Deciding to conduct your first purchase and your first refurb in a compressed time-frame is pretty brave in my book. Don't be spooked by the phrase 'limited title guarantee' in the legal paperwork for a probate purchase: your solicitor will explain (and do use a proper solicitor). It'll probably involve just a bit more hassle for those aspects where you won't necessarily be supplied with the information that you'd expect from a resident vendor.

Something I recommend is to visit the offices of the Local Planning Authority to do some research on the immediate area. They often have a map (increasingly often a digitised one) for the area with planning application numbers marked on sites. You can drill down to discover the detail of anything that attracts your attention. It might be the informative history of approved/rejected/withdrawn applications for other properties in the same road (since you mention Party Walls this could be especially interesting with regard to adjoining properties) or, as I once found, a Town Council's proposal to turn a pleasantly quiet back-road into part of a town's new, busy, circulatory one-way system. This sort of info will not be discovered in the normal legal process. I've found that an informal chat with a planning officer to discover their general tone and attitude with regard to what you are thinking of in the area you are considering is always helpful. Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted.

Cheers!

jwl83
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Re: How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

#191113

Postby jwl83 » January 4th, 2019, 7:26 pm

Thanks JonE - I appreciate all your advice.

I understand it may be a big job (and I may decide its too big - I want to get a quick ballpark before I offer so I can decide whether to stick to a simpler redecoration or tie in limited structural changes at the same time). To give some perspective, this is in the West London (Zone 3) and the places I'm looking at I'm hoping a £600k offer may be accepted (they're on the market for ~10% more than that, but haven't sold for over 6 months and the estate agent heavily hinted they'd recommend that kind of offer be accepted). Sold prices in the same street / same layout since the slowdown/slump with the Brexit referendum are £730k~£760k when in good condition with the small side return extension done and £800k~£850k in the same state but with a loft conversion too.

I'd have another ~£80k available to spend if a £600k offer was accepted. I've itemised jobs that'd should/could be done (starting from low cost / high impact things like changing carpets and painting walls; mid-cost like fitting out a new kitchen; and big ticket "nice to haves" like the side return extension and/or loft conversion). The reason for considering the bigger items now is it may be easier and cheaper to do them before we move into the house (if we didn't do them now, we'd likely to need them as we start a family - the main reason for the move). I don't think ~£80k is enough to do everything - currently my (hopefully conservative) total for all the items on the "long list", including items I'd hope we wouldn't have to do (e.g. re-skimming plastering) is ~£140k inc VAT.

I'm not expecting to gather multiple quotes from builders yet or appointing one - instead I want to get a realistic estimate (tighten up the ballparks I've made from desk research) and (if it's feasible) draw up sufficient plans to start the lawful development certificate or starting the party wall agreement processes (I understand that Building Regulations will need to be satisfied too, but my understanding so far is those more detailed drawings usually comes after the "simpler" plans required for the first two processes). My thinking is that will give me confidence (along with the survey) to proceed to exchange of contracts - from that stage I'd be hoping to proceed with multiple quotes (if I can negotiate necessary access to the property at that time) allowing me to select one and arrange a starting date as early as possible following the completion (depending on how the party wall agreement works out, if one is needed, as I understand there's a fixed 1/2 month notice period there).

I run a software development company and am heavily involved in project management day-to-day. I appreciate buildings will throw up different problems to software, but the concept of scheduling / budgeting / contingency is familiar to me. Apart from the different nature of the tasks, dealing with builders/tradesmen instead of software engineers and corporate clients is also likely to be different!

I appreciate your points on what to expect re: dealing with the vendor (and estate agent) re: requesting access multiple times. This is exactly the kind of experience I was looking for. Your suggestion around 1st/2nd/3rd viewing makes a lot of sense to me.

Similarly re: local planning authority - luckily the borough the properties are in have a lot of planning information easily accessible online, including a map showing permissions over the past ~10 years. I found a property a couple of doors down with an identical floorplan to one of the places we're looking at showing detailed drawings of the loft conversion in 2014. Visiting the planning offices themselves with the aim of an informal chat with a planning officer sounds like a good use of time.

Going back to one of my original queries (I realise this is a basic question) - the usual profession to get involved at this stage would be a builder? Or am I better off looking "up" a level to structural engineer; or "down" a level to individual trades (electrician, plumber, etc in addition to a builder)?

If the structural changes I require end up being limited, what are peoples views on engaging separate tradesmen/companies for each discrete task (e.g. separate painter/decorator, joiner, carpet fitter, etc) vs using a building company to arrange this. Given I'd have a single contact point for the latter, it sounds simpler. But is it also likely to be cheaper (assuming a building company has all these trades "in house", would I get a better price through offering a decent volume of work in total, i.e. economies of scale); or is the builder applying extra fees for managing the trades likely to outweigh this?

Thanks again for any input.

Howard
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Re: How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

#191260

Postby Howard » January 5th, 2019, 1:29 pm

jwl83

Hope you don't mind a contrarian comment.

Instead of committing yourself to a major building project, have you considered buying one of the houses which has already been converted? From what you have said above it might cost up to £150,000 more, so probably roughly similar to buying an unconverted house and getting the work done.

I am guessing you are running a very successful company and know how to project manage IT. However, your questions suggest that you have no/little expertise in property renovation. So why not spend the next two years investing in making your company more successful rather than risking getting involved in a project which could end in a lot of hassle and little extra benefit?

As a sceptical observer of friends and acquaintances who have carried out substantial building work on a house, it is seldom as profitable or enjoyable as they expected. If you are living in the house whilst builders are there you have to enjoy the dust and inconvenience which to me would be a major issue. And often the results involve compromises which weren't obvious at the start and so the end result is not quite as good as anticipated.

The advantage of buying a house which has already been converted is that you can see how it works as a family home. Also, if you employ a good surveyor before you purchase, you can get an idea of the quality of the conversion and any potential future problems. (And possibly a reduction in the purchase price to compensate.)

If you charge your time to a building project, you should charge it at the rate your best IT customers would pay. And I'm guessing if it will realistically be a 1,000 hours or more, added in to your project costs. (£50,000 or more??)

The only exception to the above that I have observed is where very wealthy people have built or converted homes but have had the luxury of living elsewhere whilst the projects were completed. And they generally haven't been expecting large profits from delegating everything to expert building contractors.

I have practised what I've preached and always purchased a low-maintenance house and thoroughly enjoyed the free time it gave me. Together with the potential to earn far more than I would have made on a building project. And I spent more quality time with my children which was beyond monetary value.

regards

Howard

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Re: How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

#191297

Postby Mike88 » January 5th, 2019, 4:36 pm

Having renovated 2 properties I have found that it would probably have been cheaper or as cheap to buy a property fully renovated. I spent 2 years on one property pulling down ceilings, knocking down walls, removing fireplaces, removing tiles set in concrete etc, relaying paths and paying electricians to rewire as well as hiring other tradesmen to do work I couldn't such as gas fitters to install a central heating boiler. Costs of kitchens and bathrooms were considerable, as were new windows, garage doors etc and I seemed to visit DIY places almost daily for various items all adding to the cost. It simply was not worth the time and effort, coupled with the inconvenience of living in a building site, embarking on the project.

If you buy a renovation project you may well find the cost of the works will double or even treble original estimates as it is surprising how costs add up. In the meantime I had very little time to socialise with renovation works and a full time job. I agree with the previous poster when he suggested there was no cost saving in buying a renovation project over a converted house.

No doubt many will disagree with much of the above but that is my experience.

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Re: How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

#191426

Postby jwl83 » January 6th, 2019, 9:30 am

Thanks Howard, Mike88. Alongside the specific questions I've been posting about the practical details of a renovation, I've been looking at the wider view of whether doing it is a good idea in the first place. So the points you've made are very welcome in thinking that through.

The main challenges I have are (a) I currently rent in central London and want to move out so I can start a family (I've already delayed a couple of years and would prefer not to delay further); (b) the area I'd like to move to has properties that are furnished to a very quality (excessively so, in my view) where the price has a premium to match - so buying a property that's already decorated to the (simpler, more affordable) level I'd like doesn't appear to be an option.

The properties I can see in the area that don't have as modern furnishing still appear to have the basics in place (structurally sound, modern electrics, modern heating) so I could move in and only go as far as replacing the carpets and repainting the walls and all should be fine. The questions about a wider renovation are more to do with whether it would be a good option to make more drastic changes (e.g. an extension) while the simpler renovation work is happening (so the disruption all happens at one point - before I move in) or whether I should just stick with the structure and make changes in 5-10 years if I need it then (and accept I'll face disruption at that point).

The feedback I'm getting on this forum is (a) however cautious I think my expectations are of complexity of the works, I should probably be even more conservative; (b) I should limit the level of renovation I'm expecting to do (and avoid it all together if possible). Fair enough, feedback taken on board!

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Re: How to plan potential renovation, before purchase

#191538

Postby Charlottesquare » January 6th, 2019, 5:07 pm

jwl83 wrote:Thanks Howard, Mike88. Alongside the specific questions I've been posting about the practical details of a renovation, I've been looking at the wider view of whether doing it is a good idea in the first place. So the points you've made are very welcome in thinking that through.

The main challenges I have are (a) I currently rent in central London and want to move out so I can start a family (I've already delayed a couple of years and would prefer not to delay further); (b) the area I'd like to move to has properties that are furnished to a very quality (excessively so, in my view) where the price has a premium to match - so buying a property that's already decorated to the (simpler, more affordable) level I'd like doesn't appear to be an option.

The properties I can see in the area that don't have as modern furnishing still appear to have the basics in place (structurally sound, modern electrics, modern heating) so I could move in and only go as far as replacing the carpets and repainting the walls and all should be fine. The questions about a wider renovation are more to do with whether it would be a good option to make more drastic changes (e.g. an extension) while the simpler renovation work is happening (so the disruption all happens at one point - before I move in) or whether I should just stick with the structure and make changes in 5-10 years if I need it then (and accept I'll face disruption at that point).

The feedback I'm getting on this forum is (a) however cautious I think my expectations are of complexity of the works, I should probably be even more conservative; (b) I should limit the level of renovation I'm expecting to do (and avoid it all together if possible). Fair enough, feedback taken on board!


One variant is to get the structural, wiring, main plumbing in re attic/extension at outset, before moving in, and have basic decoration etc done re the parts you initially want/need to live in. The finishing re attic etc waits until later when space will be needed and you maybe have more spare cash. This gets rid of most of the really dirty/uncomfortable works before you have to live in the property but can possibly create building control issues unless sanitary ware etc included.

Afraid I am a "I will do that myself" sort of house improver with the net result that we have been in our house 21 years and there is still odd snagging jobs hanging around, in my experience any DIY once you live in the house takes twice as long as it would if empty as you need to create space to work,shelter rest of house from mess and I tend to spend as much time moving things as doing the actual work- currently daughter's bedroom has needed a little tidy re a socket, some flooring and decorating but near impossible to organise as she lives here.

Whilst not having a main contractor with the works will likely be cheaper it does leave you at the whims of each trade turning up for first/second fix in the right order and on time and also allows them to all blame one another when x is not right or on time, personally I would tend (unless really small works) to have one builder so there are going to be no issues of buck passing re building control etc at the end when something is not right.


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