Even in the wake of Brexit and a stumbling economy, house prices in the UK capital continue to soar. It’s no surprise that those desperate to get their foot on the London ladder are turning to some of the hundreds of old, derelict buildings scattered across the city, as a means to make the move. It takes a certain amount of patience – and cash flow – but it’s true that making an investment with the intention of renovating can bring the London dream within reach, and make some tidy returns later down the line.
Whether you’ve had your mind set on a renovation project for some time, or have recently come into enough money to make it possible, investing in a fixer-upper can quickly become the best or worst property decision you ever make. Before embarking on a significant rebuild, make sure you’ve got a reasonable idea about what renovations and construction involve – or at least know you’ve got the finances in place to hire the experts who do.
Refurbishment or complete rebuild?
The first thing to consider is how much of a project you’re willing to take on. Refurbishments could be as simple as refreshing the décor in a dated home, or as complex as major structural changes and extensions. It’s wise to decide this before buying a building, as you may find that whatever state you buy it in doesn’t leave you with much choice – replacing the sink isn’t going to cut it if there are holes in the middle of the floor!
If you’ve already found a property and its current structure and condition don’t require too many repairs or modifications, then a refurbishment may be a satisfying a relatively easy way to put your stamp on it and make a decent profit. Homes on the cheaper end of the market may need significant work doing, and if there are problems in the construction or foundation, you may better off to tear it down and start anew. Building from scratch comes with its own pros and cons: it’s a great way to design your dream home, but having to consider all the design stages can quickly get expensive and time-consuming.
Property Surveys and Building Defect Reports
When planning your renovation, it’s important to know which areas of the building need the most urgent attention. While you might have a good idea about where you want to spend your money, commissioning a professional Building Survey can advise you early on if there are any urgent structural issues hidden behind obvious cosmetic problems. A reputable, RICS-approved firm, such as Trusted Surveyors, will be able to provide you with a detailed report about the state of the property concerned, and bring to your attention any significant defects.
The RICS Building Survey covers a wide range of issues, spanning the property from its rooftop to its foundations, and extending to outbuildings or structures within the grounds and along the boundary line. It’s usually a good idea to commission a report before you agree to purchase a building, as surveyor’s finds may encourage you to reconsider its value. It’s also an excellent tool for helping you determine whether it’s more cost-effective to repair the property, or tear it down and start from scratch.
Even born organisers can struggle to manage a building project without experience; between contractors, designers, architects, installers, dependent trades and overlapping deadlines, there’s a lot to take on. There’s no shame in admitting a professional would do a better job, and biting the bullet to hire a qualified construction project manager can ultimately save you money by keeping to an efficient plan. They will have a network of reliable industry contacts, a demonstrable record of keeping projects running smoothly and to budget, and help to reduce the amount of stress on your shoulders.
A London firm will be familiar with the restrictions and conventions of local and national building regulations, but there’s nothing stopping you from hiring an expert from further afield to help you realise your vision.
Whether you’re making small adjustments or major modifications, having the correct planning permission in place before you start work is essential, otherwise you can end up having the project stopped and being forced to put back any changes already made. Needless to say, this would be a huge waste of time and money, so it’s really worth jumping the hurdles of obtaining approval from your local council.
This is particularly important if the building is listed, as failing to follow protocol or ignoring the advice of the local Conservation Officer can have serious consequences (like fines and jailtime). Save yourself frustrations later down the line and account for the lengthy process of applying for permission in your planning, and make sure you’ve got some back-up ideas in case the initial design is rejected.
These are the basic considerations for planning a renovation on a run-down building – now it’s up to you if you think you can handle the pressure and obligations of the project, and whether it’s worth it just to get into the London property market. Investing in any home, let alone a fixer-upper, is a huge commitment, and there’s nothing wrong with taking your time to consider your options.
This article was written by Dakota Murphey.