Whenever you approach the renovation of a property, ensure you have a clear understanding of what you are going to achieve, what budget you have available, how much time you have allowed to complete your project and whether your build team is fully available when required. All these need to be realistic or you will create unnecessary stress while undertaking your project.
Also, keep in mind who you are renovating for. Different levels of upgrade will be required depending on whether it’s your own home, an investment property, or a property you will flip.
PLAN YOUR RENOVATION PROJECT
Plan exactly what you want from your renovation, whether it is in your current house or a house that you are expecting to purchase. By planning ahead, you will save yourself time and money, as well as reduce your chances of any nasty surprises later on.
One of the main rules of renovating your house is to only spend money on changes that will increase the value of your house, especially if you are looking to sell the property after the renovation has completed. You need to make the most out of your renovation budget so that you can maximise returns. Although this may limit what you choose to do to your property, it means that you are not making empty investments. This rule still applies even if you are planning to live in your house for a period of time before you eventually sell it.
If your budget is limited, make a list of the priority tasks to be completed, especially if your renovation project is to be completed over many years. Decide what the essentials are. For example, carpets can be expensive, so you may choose to live with bare wooden flooring throughout the house until you can afford to purchase carpets. Or you can put down some old rugs if you have these.
There is a logical order in which renovation works should be approached and undertaken. If you do not follow that order, you may end up having to undo or redo completed work in order to complete basic repairs and improvements.
Preparing a plan is a very useful way of listing the required works in order as well as estimating the likely cost and time required for a renovation project. Also, if funds are restricted, it will allow renovation works to be prioritised without compromising the end result or wasting money. If you do not have a proper plan and fix all the details at an early stage, including when you may require specific members of a build team, this can cause uncertainty and delay when you are in the middle of the project. If you do not have a clear idea for the whole house committed to a plan, then you risk doing work that has to be undone further down the line.
Determine if you are going to live in the house while renovating. The answer to this may also dictate the priority order in which you renovate the property. You may need to complete one area or floor first, so you can live in it while the rest of the house is developed. The deciding factors will be time and cost, which will mean either renting somewhere off-site or potentially holding up the renovation process by moving around the house as it gets completed. Also plan for how you and your family will manage during the property renovation if you are all living in the house and there are interruptions to the gas supply, electricity or water.
Decide whether you are going to hire a building firm to undertake the renovation work, or whether you are going to hire contractors independently. This may depend on what budget you are working to and the funds you have available, as well as how much control you want over the renovations. If you decide to hire the contractors independently, then it is essential that you have a plan of what needs to be done with your property. Obtain advice and input on any potential structural changes from a qualified architect, or at least a builder, during your planning phase.
When hiring the contractors independently, schedule them so that they do not all come at the same time. Create a schedule of work and plan the priority order for the work to be started and completed, and make sure that this logically runs together. As an example, do not have the electricians come after the plasterers, as they will have to work on the walls which have already been plastered.
Have the plumbing installed in the house before any of the other work gets done. Doing this will ensure that you will have a ready water supply to the property and also the contractors will have water for the work they need to undertake. Also, have any structural changes completed swiftly after the plumbing, so that the construction of the property is in place as soon as possible.
Proper planning to a detailed level means that you can also prepare a proper budget. Even for simple things such as having materials delivered, need planning. Is the road wide enough for the lorry to turn? If it cannot get into your driveway, will you need to demolish a wall, or is the distance from the road short enough for materials to be transferred by hand?
CONFIRM WHO ARE YOU RENOVATING FOR
Be clear about who you are renovating the property for, such as a residence for you to live in, an investment for you to rent out, or a property to sell on. The work you decide to undertake, and the budget that you set, will depend on this. Enlarging a two bedroom house to make it a three or four bedroom house, in the catchment area of a great school, will be a better investment than undertaking similar improvements in an area where the local school does not have a good record.
Having an avatar of a potential buyer in mind will assist with planning how you will approach your renovation project. It will help to distinguish the people who will buy in that particular neighbourhood, what they’re likely to be looking for and what might put them off.
In London, expensive basement conversions are popular for adding living space, especially where the garden is small. If a basement conversion is considered unusual in your area, it might have the opposite effect and put potential purchasers off. If your garden is big enough, it would make better sense to add more living space by extending outwards.
In an area popular with families, an extra bedroom or a playroom would be a good investment, but a gym or garden pond would be less so. Replacing a bath for a shower might be a mistake as families with young children and babies usually want a bath in their home. Review your property with a degree of objectivity and a critical eye. Consider whether anything is missing that other neighbouring properties already have.
DECIDE WHAT WORK TO DO
When you are planning a large renovation project, and you have listed out all the required work, it can seem overwhelming and you may spend all your time trying to decide what to do next, rather than moving forward with it. Break down all the work into smaller sub-projects. Then put them in a priority order of importance. Consider obtaining a detailed assessment of the current condition of the property. If you are buying a property to renovate, commission a chartered surveyor to undertake a survey and provide a report identifying any essential repairs needed. The report will also provide recommendations for further investigation by specialist surveyors into any suspect areas such as infestation, subsidence or heave, damp or drainage problems.
The following illustration provides an indication of property value added by activity:
While the value added will depend on how much you spend to achieve this uplift, the appropriate renovation activity needs to be undertaken. For instance, a basement conversion is the most complicated of all extensions as this underpins the house. You may have to deal with party wall issues, it requires site access for digging machinery, any groundwater issues and waterproofing will need to be overcome, and you will need planning permission for any structural work. Any of these could affect your time allocation and budget, as with anything unforeseen or delayed that has to do with building works.