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Avoiding Major Costs when Renovating

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 11 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Costs Property Renovation Renovate Homes

There’s no way any necessary cost can be avoided on a renovation project but how can you keep the big costs down? The answers are a combination of looking forward and being canny on the way.


Depending on the size of your project, consider a full structural survey. And if you are buying a property in order to renovate it and sell it on at a profit, then you probably should get one done before you put your offer in. If you are buying at auction it’s even more critical. With a normal sale you can back out if the survey shows up something you weren’t aware, but auctions don’t give you that comfort level.

Proper Survey

Note that this is different to the perfunctory check that mortgage companies do before they lend money on your house, and different to a homebuyer survey too. A full structural survey by a chartered surveyor is likely to cost at least £700 and probably more, depending on the size and condition of the house. Once the survey comes back you can be reasonably sure you have a good idea of the state of the property. It might set you back a bit but it will be worth its weight in gold if it avoids being surprised by a major problem.

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

Look around for you tradesmen and supplies, and if you find someone cheaper, try going back to the one you’d prefer to use and see if they’ll match the price. Keep going round that loop until you’ve got the price where you want it. And be careful with quotes, make sure you know what’s included, like VAT and delivery, and make sure you can have the money available to pay each bill, particularly if your tradesmen prefer cash. It’ll cost a lot more in delays if you don’t keep your team sweet.

Watch the Design

If you will be selling your project on when it’s complete to make a profit, be careful not to overspend on designer fittings. Look around at the local market, what’s going in to new builds in the area, what prices properties are fetching and how classy the neighbourhood is. If the market demand high-class fittings, then it’s essential to fit them. But if it doesn’t, then it’s money down the drain because you won’t get it back in the price of the property. In that case, go for good quality, but not over-expensive. Know your market.

Ring the Changes

This is one of the biggest dangers, constantly changing your mind. If you keep changing the instructions to your builder or other craftsmen, they will do what you ask, because you are the customer. What they won’t do, unless you ask, is quote for the change. So if you keep making changes then the bill will come in a lot more expensive, but worse, an unknown amount, and when you challenge it, the story will be “well, that’s what you asked us to do”.

This doesn’t mean you can’t make changes, but be aware of the financial consequences, build them in to the budget and make sure they’re worthwhile.

Spend Money

This might sound a bit odd, spending money to avoid major costs, but it’s about spending wisely. Say, for example, the roof really needs replacing, but you just fix a few bits here and there so save money. Then, later on, the whole thing caves in and you have to get the family out into emergency accommodation and pay through the nose to get it all fixed by whoever you can find who can respond fast enough.

Well, that’s going to cost you a whole lot more than having it replaced as part of a considered project, when you can work around the inconvenience, and pick the best person for the job rather than the only person that’s available (and why do you think they’re available?). So think about where it’s best to spend money now to get things done properly and avoid spending big in the future.

Be Safe

But please remember, there some areas where you shouldn’t cut costs, because the price of failure will be more than financial. It’s just not worth cutting corners in any area where you aren’t properly trained and sure of what you’re doing. In particular, structural work, and gas and electrical installations should be left to the experts.

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