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What Considerations Should Be Made When Buying A Renovation Property?

According To The Experts

From financing, through to property acquisition, planning, design and build there are many elements to acquiring a property and transforming it into yours dream residence. Here at Janine Stone & Co. – we always encourage clients to engage with experts early on in the process. Besides our own expertise in project management, design and build; we are fortunate enough to keep a superb black book of contacts from across real estate and finance. This month we decided to ask some of these individuals the question: “What are the most important considerations to make when buying a renovation property?”

Will Watson, Partner and Head of London, The Buying Solution:

“In my experience, a full renovation project always takes longer and is more expensive than predicted. We’d always recommend setting aside a minimum 15-25% contingency budget as surprises inevitably arise once work is underway. Before you even acquire a property or instruct work on an existing property, ensure you are familiar with building regulations and commission a full building survey to dig up any potential hurdles not immediately visible – this will also help ascertain whether repairing these aspects comes within budget.

It is essential for a good project manager to make you aware of all the hidden costs and what is to be expected both financially and timescale wise, from the outset. In particular, buyers often under estimate professional fees which can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds for a sizeable project. Also my final piece of advice would be don’t cut corners and leave the big jobs to the professionals; this ultimately will save you time, money and stress.”

Marc Schneiderman, Director, Arlington Residential

Be prepared that the planning process can be lengthy and protracted, particularly with listed buildings. Ensure you employ a project manager with a good track record of similar projects and likewise with your choice of quantity surveyor – it will save you time and money. Expect the project to take 25% longer and cost 25% more than anticipated – that way you wont be disappointed!

Tom Hudson, Director at Middleton Advisors

“Buyers should not be buying listed buildings if they fail to appreciate the reason for the listing. It is with looking at the listing description – a paragraph or two for Grade II Listed and up to a few files for Grade I, these guidelines describe the pertinent points. The Conservation officer or English Heritage if Grade II */Grade I will use this as a guide. Buildings are listed for a reason and I would not advocate buying one if you plan to alter dramatically the key attributes of that are specified under the listing. That said, it is often easier than you may think to extend or alter a listed building – the fact that it is listed does not mean you cannot alter it. Engaging a good planning consultant is always a good idea and will give the best chance of achieving what you want to, even if the building is historic but not listed, it is often advisable to seek expert help when planning changing the fabric and layout of a period building.”

“The Cotswolds have more historic and listed buildings than any other region in the UK, therefore buyers looking across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire need to be aware of the responsibilities that come with owning such a building. If planning to do work to a property, buyers need to be aware that the planning process is more onerous, as you need to apply for both planning consent, and specific listed building consent. Whilst you may be looking to create the increasing popular ‘live in kitchen/breakfast room’, the conservation officer may have a different idea. This does not, however, preclude listed buildings from extensive renovation and restoration. With quality, experienced advice and a well thought out scheme, it is possible to create stunning house, sensitive to the history and character of the building. Regarding VAT relief, back in 2014 the then Chancellor made previously exempt ‘alterations and repairs’ to a listed building subject to VAT.”

Islay Robinson, CEO of Enness Global Mortgages

“Get your money sorted out early – trying to mortgage, remortgage or increase borrowings during a renovation is very difficult. Always add in a contingency amount to your budget – works over run, ideas change, problems occur, no matter how thorough you are or how great your team is”.

Giles Cook, Head of Residential Sales at Best Gapp

“When considering purchasing a listed building, buyers should always take professional advice from a heritage specialist to make an informed decision. Consent is required for any works that affect the building and any applications ensure that special consideration is given to the effect of the proposed works. Obtaining consent for major changes can be tricky, however buyers will have a greater chance of success if they liaise with local conservation officers from the start and later down the line engage the services of an experienced planning consultant.”

Simon Barnes, H.Barnes & Co

“While houses offer privacy and tend to be quieter, in Prime Central London houses are mainly Victorian and Georgian and terraced and often listed or in conservation areas meaning renovation plans are restricted. These houses tend to follow a traditional floor template, so while spacious, accommodation is spread over several floors. Any incoming buyer will need to work within planning guidelines and may find the restrictions tricky to work with. Period features will need to be retained and the overall layout of a London townhouse being tall and narrow means extending and creating extensive lateral space is not practical. It is always worth seeking professional advice from an architect when looking to reconfigure a traditional townhouse or period building in order to preserve the property’s integrity but maximise space, light and good design for contemporary living.”

‘Mansion’ flats, traditionally Victorian flats in purpose-built blocks have the advantage of having generous rooms with original period features, a practical layout and are very well built with great sound-proofing. Renovating these is often made easier as the basic layout is well planned. The locations for mansion blocks in Fulham, Chelsea and Maida Vale; they tend to be well managed and maintained, having upgraded with lifts and new heating systems, which means less of a major renovation project to tackle beyond the front door!”

– – Our View – –

Janine Stone & Co.’s own view is that one of the primary challenges for HNWIs looking to undertake these projects is finding the right property. The key to success is always to talk to professionals early in the process. This should include; your buying agent, your finance adviser and chosen architect or designer.

From your shortlist of properties we can help evaluate their potential from a design, planning and development perspective. This drastically reduces the chance of more costly problems arising later in the process, and massages out the stress involved in evaluating properties yourself. Janine Stone & Co. are always happy to talk with those embarking on this journey. If this sounds like you, you may want to learn more about our pre-purchase design and development appraisals.