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How To Avoid Surprises When Renovating

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 12 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Surprise Preparation Property Renovation

What are the three things to look for when buying the right property? Yes that’s right, everyone knows that one: “location, location location”. But do you know the three most important things you need to make sure your renovation goes smoothly? Not so well known, that one, it’s: “preparation, preparation, preparation”.

Before You Go In

If you’re buying a property to renovate, make sure your solicitor’s searches cover the area and not just the house itself. Find out if there are any other developments in the area that might have an impact on the final price of your project. Make sure you know the market in the area, as the biggest surprise of all will be if you can’t rent out or sell your property for a profit, or worse, not at all.

If, for example, you extend a property to turn it into a six bedroomed home in an area where the market is mainly single people and couples just starting out, then you may not make the killing you expected.

Consider a Survey

If you’re doing a big project and it’s a building that you’ve only just purchased, a full structural survey would be a good investment. In fact, it’s probably worth getting one before you buy, that would eliminate a lot of surprises. It will cost a minimum of £700, probably quite a lot more, but it’ll be a great investment. Having to unexpectedly put a new damp-proof course in or under-pin a building can make a big dent in your budget.

Control Those Purse Strings

Budget surprises seem to hit every renovation project. Think back to all those television programs featuring rebuilds both in the UK and abroad. When was the last time you saw one where the budget didn’t spiral out of control? And what was the common factor? They probably weren’t keeping close tabs on spending and possibly didn’t even have a properly prepared budget in the first place.

This is critical. You must prepare a comprehensive budget and then keep monitoring it as the project progresses (see our articles on budgeting and planning for more detailed help). This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t change your mind about what you’re doing or the level of fittings you’re putting in. It just means that when you do something like that, you’ll know how much more it’s going to cost you. This in turn means you can make a considered decision as to whether or not the change is worth the extra expense. If it is, then fine, go ahead and do it.

Get Expert Help

Consider getting an expert to check your budget once you’ve completed it, as you might have missed something. Do you know whether or not you can reclaim the VAT on your renovation, or if there are any grants that you are eligible for? All these can be found out if you do the preparatory work, or consult an architect, accountant or local planner. Even an afternoon in the local library might strike gold if you turn up a grant you weren’t aware of.

Monitor Progress

Make sure you keep tabs on the work as it’s going along and ask direct questions of your team. Ask them if they’re on time and on budget, as they are unlikely to offer that information. It might annoy them, but it’s your money, and the same goes with suppliers. If they miss a deadline, it’s your money that could be paying men to stand idle.

Expect the Unexpected

Remember, the definition of a surprise is an unexpected occurrence, so the only way to avoid surprises completely is to expect the unexpected. If you spend time on preparation then you should be expecting everything, and the build will go smoothly.

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