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How to renovate a house

You might be looking for a first home, or beginning to establish a property empire. If you don’t have the budget for the home of your dreams, a good option is to go for an older property in need of some repair and restoration. If you’re looking to sell it on or rent it out afterwards this is a great way to add value to a house.

While the end of the road is a new home, worth many times more than what you paid for it and full of chic, modern fittings, there are many potholes along the way. This guide will help you avoid some of the major mistakes and lead the way to renovation success. Follow our renovating a house checklist and you’ll have some present surprises when estate agents come to value the results.

1. Get the Location Right

If you want to rent the house out or sell it when you’ve renovated, you want to add the most value to the property. Do your research first so you can look for properties with potential in areas where house prices are already booming. If you find a bad house in a good area, you can buy it under market value for the area and sell it at the higher end of what’s possible. In a cheaper area, the maximum price you can get after renovations is much lower.

Your money might go further in a less desirable location but you can’t change the area singlehanded, only the house

2. Start with the Fundamentals

It’s tempting to spend your money making the property look good, with a fitted kitchen and deep carpets, for example. While this might make it look attractive to buyers, estate agents and surveyors will look deeper when they make their valuations.

If you’ve bought a property that’s been derelict for some time, or an ex-student or council property, you need to make sure it’s structurally sound, secure and has all the damp proofing it needs. Ignoring any of these could leave you with a house you can’t sell after you’ve sunk a lot of money into renovating it.

If you’re renovating a house on a budget check for damp and dry rot, and unsound beams, and ringfence money to make sure you can repair major flaws like this. Even if this leaves you without the budget to finish the project with the fixtures and fittings you’d prefer, you’re adding a lot of value to the property making sure it’s safe and habitable and this gives you the best chance of selling it on.

Another basic but important feature is central heating. If you’re taking on a Victorian or Edwardian 3-bedroom house with an antiquated boiler, replacing it will cost around £4,000 but add many times that to the value of the property. Apart from the attraction of properly heated rooms and water, doing this in addition to adding loft insulation and stopping up draughty gaps around doors and windows will increase the energy efficiency rating of the property which is an increasingly important feature to estate agents and buyers.

3. How Much Does Renovating a House Cost?

Budgeting is probably the most important part of the whole process of renovating a home. Every property and project will be different, so it’s important to plan in advance. List everything you need to do to the property and cost each section individually. For example, if you want to open up the downstairs living space in a period property (a common improvement when tackling older houses), you need to allow up to £1000 for a survey, £172 for a planning application, as much as £400 for skip hire, and in the region of £3,000 for knocking out a wall and reinforcing the structure.

You may be able to make some savings by combining costs across the whole project: for example, on skip hire, or surveying if you have the whole house surveyed rather than getting separate reports for each phase of the project, but by costing everything individually, you can organise them by priority. As mentioned above, the basics need to come first, and you need to set money aside to guarantee them. It’s less important if you need to trim your budget when choosing carpets than damp proofing bathrooms

It’s important to include a 10-15% contingency fund when you’re budgeting. It’s very rare for a project to go entirely to plan and if works uncover a serious issue you weren’t aware of when starting, you need funds available to cover it.

4. Where to Buy?

If you’re looking for a renovation project, you can likely pick up a very good deal on a house by buying at auction. This comes with some drawbacks compared with buying from an estate agent.

You have less time to look into the property: while it’s slow to buy a house in the traditional way, this does give you additional time for surveys and research which mean you know exactly what you’re buying. If you’re in a hurry you could walk into an auction, bid on a house and then find it gets condemned by the local council.

Approach an auction as you would a traditional sale. Do your research about the area, read all the documentation provided on its history and current state of repair, and if possible organise a ‘walkthrough’ of the property with a builder or surveyor to get an informed opinion.

5. Prepare

Quite apart from renovating the property itself, there are lots of other contingencies you need to consider.

If what you’re working on is going to be become your family home, where will family live in the meantime? If you’re able to stay with your extended family or friends, will they still be as welcoming if you run into unexpected problems and they renovation runs over time by weeks?

Also, you need to consider storage options. Whether you’re putting your own possessions into store or fixtures and fittings that will eventually be installed in the house, STORED offer cheap and secure storage options with delivery included. When you know you can get your items back when you’re ready for them, and don’t have to collect them yourself, that’s one less thing to worry about in the complicated process of renovating a house.

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