Renovation and Conversion Projects

When you’re looking to build your dream home, sometimes the best place to start isn’t at the beginning. Across the United Kingdom there are estimated to be close to a million properties which are empty, have fallen into some state of disrepair and are just crying out for a little TLC to bring them back to life.

Renovating a property or converting one from its previous existence can be a fantastic way to get the home you’ve always wanted at the same time as preserving a building which may have some historical or local significance, and providing the structure of the property is sound, a renovation project can be more cost effective than beginning from scratch on a self-build.

The Renovation Landscape: Where to Start

Since the financial crash and recession, the number of UK homes which have been repossessed or abandoned has increased dramatically, while many commercial premises such as pubs and small hotels have been forced to close as their owners have felt the pinch. While it’s bad news for those who have lost property, for those on the lookout for a renovation or conversion project there has never been so much choice available.

If you’re looking to renovate a property, the first thing you need to do is calculate how much you can afford to spend. While the dilapidated building itself might be going cheap, you have to know that your finances can stretch and the property will be worth more when you’re done than you’ve spent on fixing it up. You also need to factor in an emergency contingency, because somewhere along the road, most old buildings will throw up a few surprises.

Armed with your figures, the hunt can begin. A simple walk around the area you are interested in could reveal some run-down properties just ripe for redevelopment, and if you can find out from the Land Registry who has ownership, it might be worth making a direct approach – they might just see you as the saving angel coming to take the wreck off their hands.

Estate agents are highly unlikely to waste valuable window space in showing run-down properties, but getting your name on their books means they will be able to alert you when potential projects come on the market. Free to use websites such as Rightmove will sometimes turn up gems, but for a small fee you could also turn to more specialist sites such as PropertyRenovate or RenovateAlerts where the choice might be greater.

Contacting the local authorities and keeping an eye on publications from the local planning department can also reap rewards, while attending property auctions could also see you pick up a bargain if you’re willing to take a few risks.

Before You Part with Your Hard-Earned Cash…

Nobody should ever, under any circumstances, buy a renovation project without first investigating it thoroughly and having site surveys done. General checks you can carry out yourself are a good start, but having a thorough structural and ground survey done will identify what remedial work needs carrying out and give you an idea of how much it will cost, essential information when it comes to making an offer.

Hiring a good designer before you open your wallet could also save you a small fortune in the long-run. An experienced designer will be able to help you make the big decisions on layout, plumbing, adding in additional windows or doors or extending the property, and a few sensible decisions taken together early on could stop you running into difficulties later.

Although planning laws have been somewhat relaxed in recent years, you always need to ensure planning permission is in place for any work you want carried out. Purchasing the property without the green light to start work could be a very expensive mistake, or could, in fact, put an end to the entire project. Remember, too, that planning permission has a use by date, so check that any permissions already granted haven’t or won’t have expired before the work is started.

Final Top Tips

Once you’ve taken the plunge and bought your renovation or conversion property, there are a few key things to remember along the way.

Always keep track of exactly how much you’re spending, and on what – creating a spreadsheet to monitor all outgoings is a wise move from day one, and will help ensure your budget doesn’t spiral out of control as well as being important for tax purposes.

Bear in mind that while most people in the area will probably be glad to see the building coming back into housing use, there are sometimes sensitivities which mean you might need to tread carefully. Particularly if you are developing or converting a property in a more rural or village location, or in an area well-known for its natural beauty or historical significance, your new neighbours could prove a little less welcoming of too much change. Developments which complement and are sympathetic to the local area and architecture will almost certainly be embraced, so if you were hoping to get very creative in terms of design, a country cottage or historic old pub might not be the best choice for you.

Remember too that there are lots of organisations keen to offer support to property developers looking to renovate or convert disused buildings. With the UK suffering a chronic shortage of housing, organisations such as the Empty Homes Agency offer plenty of practical help to property developers.

Whether you’re looking to buy a run-down 1960’s semi or an old barn steeped in local history, planning is key. Take professional advice early on, keep strict control of the purse strings and a renovation or conversion project could well be the best route to your ideal home.