Buying a renovation property
When you think you've found the perfect home to renovate, it can be difficult sometimes not to let your excitement run away with you. The joy of thinking you've found your future dream home for a bargain price can mean you play down the potential nightmares involved in getting there. Which is not an argument against buying a renovation property – no pain, no gain – merely an argument for thinking everything through properly.
Always view a property at least twice
Taking a video, so you can look at it at your leisure once you get home, can be really helpful as long as it doesn't distract you from paying full attention to details at the time.
Be honest with yourself about the cost
There is no point kidding yourself when drawing up a budget. If renovating the property is going to cost X, it is going to cost X, so you might as well be clear about this from day one. You will also always need more money than you think you will – allow up to 20 per cent extra.
Be prepared to hunt around for a mortgage
Most lenders will only offer a mortgage on a home that is classed as habitable (an empty shell is not much use if they need to repossess it), and you may need to approach a lender specialising in renovation mortgages. Not having a working kitchen or bathroom would probably be enough to class a property as uninhabitable. If it is run down but habitable, most lenders will offer between 80 and 95 per cent of the home’s value as it stands.
Think about how long the renovation will take
Again, this will probably be longer than you expect. Each project is different, but be prepared for an extensive renovation to take six months or more, and unless you intend to live there during the work (which is a whole other conversation), you need to have somewhere to live while it's going on. Be clear on how much work is really involved.
As a rule, cosmetic changes are likely to be more straightforward than structural ones, which means a property can look a complete mess but actually be quite easy to do up – or vice versa. Things like patching walls, refinishing floors, fixing broken windows, or replacing doors, sockets and light switches should not be too difficult. Tasks like shoring up foundations, new plumbing or connections to utilities, replacing heating systems or completely redesigning the bathroom or kitchen will involve more work.
Get it checked
It's important to get the site properly inspected and have your plans checked to make sure they are sound. Your architect will be able to advise you on what you need to have done. You can find chartered surveyors at www.rics.org/uk and structural engineers at hoa.org.uk/services/structural-engineers.
South east London architects Bluelime Home Design has 13 years' experience in designing and renovating homes across south London and Kent. We can help with every stage, including getting planning permission and managing the construction work. We have offices in Dartford, Bromley, Erith, Bexley and Croydon – call us on 01322 517632 to find out about the architectural services we offer or to arrange a free architect consultation.